Amistad

Tucson Weekly

DIRECTED BY: Steven Spielberg

REVIEWED: 12-22-97

Sure, the story is important, but the movie's not. Though Steven Spielberg capably navigates the complex 19th-century politics that were preventing abolition, he fails to shape them into an effective drama. The tale's catalyst--a black mutiny aboard a slave ship on its way across the Atlantic--is powerfully, artfully rendered in scattered, flashback sequences. The rest of the movie, however, turns into a long, talky yawner full of courtroom scenes and endless exposition. And unlike Schindler's List, there's no central character to care about: Matthew McConaughy's quickly becomes irrelevant, Morgan Freeman's has little to do, and even Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), the African who led the revolt, is reduced to a banal noble-savage role. (Anthony Hopkins, playing John Quincy Adams, shows up just long enough to give a terrific speech--which John Williams manages to ruin with his intrusive, uninspired score.) Amistad vividly re-imagines history, but there's no heart; it's just a big-budget history lesson.

--Woodruff

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Other Films by Steven Spielberg
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Columbo (tv)
Saving Private Ryan
The Lost World

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