Set in the 1930s, David O. Russell’s film tells the story of three friends who are, in turn, witnesses to a crime, then prime suspects, and finally the ones who uncover one of the most shocking conspiracies in American history United.
David O. Russell, director nominated five times for an Oscar so far and recognized for titles such as The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, returns to the spotlight with Amsterdam, a colorful and chaotic film that takes us to interwar America. Beyond the expensive production and the dozens of stars on the poster, the film also discusses a little-known American plot. It is so demented that it seems like an invention of the screenwriters, but it existed in reality and maybe it would have deserved to be presented in a film with a more serious tone.
We are in the 1930s, when Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), a doctor and World War I veteran, is preoccupied with organizing an event to celebrate, through music and fiery speeches, the heroism of American veterans. Except that the guest of honor, General and Senator Bill Meekins, dies mysteriously a week before the event, and his daughter (the famous Taylor Swift) is convinced that his end was caused by a criminal hand. Aided by his best friend, the lawyer Harold Woodman (John David Washington), Burt will try to unravel the mystery, the investigation putting his life in danger repeatedly.
Amsterdam has a lot going for it, like being an ode to friendship, and it has enough energy to distract from the length that doesn’t work to its advantage. It is also interesting how the film discusses the friendship of the two heroes who know each other in France during the First World War, when General Meekins assembles the first platoon that brings together both black and Caucasian soldiers. Wounded after an atrocious attack, the two future good friends are treated by nurse Valerie (Margot Robbie, almost as unhinged as in Birds of Prey) and will recover in the city of Amsterdam, which also gives the title of the film and becomes a symbol of a space beyond time and the challenges of history, where friendship, dance and good will heal the wounds of the body and the soul.
Unfortunately, Amsterdam leaves a somewhat unpleasant impression due to the fact that it is, after all, an exercise in vanity. I have never understood the obsession of Hollywood directors to bring together dozens of big names of American acting, a decision that certainly helps the marketing of the film, but which robs it of its credibility and magic because at every step the viewer exclaims: ” look at Chris Rock too”, “oh, and Anya Taylor-Joy”, “wow, De Niro!” and so on. This agglomeration of stars does not take long to pull you out of the story because, although the performances are good, Amsterdam sometimes leaves the feeling that it is more of an Oscar afterparty than a movie.
But perhaps the biggest criticism that can be leveled at Amsterdam is that its real core (we don’t want to give spoilers, so we won’t reveal anything about the so-called Businessmen’s Plot) is treated as a colorful joke, being completely buried in the avalanche of giumbushlucas executed by the procession of stars. Ok, no one is going to mind seeing Christian Bale sing, dance and lose his eye every ten minutes, but the plot definitely deserves a more serious approach, especially in this day and age of media propaganda and the interference of the rich in politics are haunting themes. When you see a scene where a tycoon threatens a war hero that his name will be in the papers the next day what do you think of but an Elon Musk ready to buy Twitter? However, Amsterdam prefers sequins and eyeballs (sometimes thrown) over relevance.