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Amistad

Director:
Steven Spielberg

Writer:
David Franzoni

Cast: 
Morgan Freeman – Theodore Joadson
Nigel HawthorneMartin Van Buren
Anthony HopkinsJohn Quincy Adams
Djimon Hounsou – Cinque
Matthew McConaugheyRoger Sherman Baldwin
Stellan SkarsgårdTappan
Pete Postlethwaite – Holabird

Country:
USA

Language:
English, Mende, Spanish

Release Date:
USA  10 December 1997

Awards:
1998 Academy Awards, USA – Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Anthony Hopkins (Nominated); Best Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski (Nominated); Best Costume Design: Ruth E. Carter (Nominated); Best Music, Original Dramatic Score: John Williams (Nominated)

1998 American Society of Cinematographers, USA – Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases: Janusz Kaminski (Nominated)

1998 Art Directors Guild, USA – Excellence in Production Design Award, Feature Film: Rick Carter, Tony Fanning, Christopher Burian-Mohr, William James Teegarden, Lauren E. Polizzi, John Berger, Paul Sonski,
Nicholas Lundy, Hugh Landwehr (Nominated)

1998 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, USA – Critics Choice Award, Best Supporting Actor: Anthony Hopkins; Best Picture (Nominated)

1998 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards – Best Supporting Actor: Anthony Hopkins (Nominated); Most Promising Actor: Djimon Hounsou (Nominated)

1998 David di Donatello Awards, Italy – Best Foreign Film (Nominated)

1998 Directors Guild of America, USA – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures: Steven Spielberg (Nominated)

1998 European Film Awards – Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema: Stellan Skarsgård (Also for Good Will Hunting – 1997)

1998 Golden Globes, USA – Best Director – Motion Picture: Steven Spielberg (Nominated); Best Motion Picture – Drama (Nominated); Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama:
Djimon Hounsou (Nominated); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Anthony Hopkins (Nominated)

1998 NAACP Image Awards, USA – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture: Djimon Hounsou; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Morgan Freeman; Outstanding Motion Picture (Nominated)

1998 Satellite Awards, USA – Golden Satellite Award – Outstanding Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski; Best Director of a Motion Picture: Steven Spielberg (Nominated); Best Motion Picture – Drama (Nominated); Best Motion Picture Screenplay – Adaption: David Franzoni (Nominated); Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama: Djimon Hounsou (Nominated); Outstanding Art Direction: Rick Carter (Nominated); Outstanding Costume Design: Ruth E. Carter (Nominated); Outstanding Film Editing: Michael Kahn (Nominated); Outstanding Original Score: John Williams (Nominated)

1998 Screen Actors Guild Awards, USA – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Anthony Hopkins (Nominated)

Ratings:
USA: R
Australia: M
Brazil: 14
Canada: 14A (Alberta/British Columbia)
Canada: PA (Manitoba)
Canada: 14 (Nova Scotia)
Canada: AA (Ontario)
Canada: 13+ (Quebec)
Finland: K-14
France: U
Germany: 12
Iceland:14
Mexico: B
Netherlands: 16
Norway: 15
Spain: T
Sweden: 15
Switzerland:12 (Cantons of Geneva and Vaud)
UK: 15
Flickchart Global Ranking: 2061
IMDb: 7.1/10
Metacritic: 63/100
Netflix: 3.7/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 76% (Fresh)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 14+

Amistad is based on the true story of the uprising in 1839 aboard the Spanish shave-ship La Amistad (which ironically means “Friendship”). Led by Sengbe Pieh (more commonly known as Cinque, played by Djimon Hounsou), the Africans overpowered their Spanish captors and took control of their ship. They kept two of the Spaniards alive, believing they would take them back to Africa. Because the Africans were unable to communicate with the Spaniards, the Spaniards were able to trick them and sail into US waters, where they were captured.

The rest of the movie details the legal wranglings between the various entities that claimed “ownership” of the Africans, and the abolitionists (Morgan Freeman and Stellan Skarsgård) who are trying to get them set free and returned to Africa.

Cinqué/Sengbe Pieh played by Djimon Hounsou

Helped out by real estate lawyer Roger S. Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey), the abolitionists look like they are going to prevail until the current President (#8) Martin Van Buren appeals the decision to the Supreme Court.

Roger S. Baldwin played by Matthew McConaughey

Outgunned, Sherman and the team persuade former President (#6) John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) to help argue the case before The Supremes. In his (movie) argument, Adams adopts the Africans’ tradition and challenges the Justices to listen to the voices of their ancestors – which would include Adam’s father John Adams, Founding Father and President #2. This seems like a strange way to go, since most of the Founding Fathers were just fine with slavery, as were the majority of the Supreme Court Justices, but who am I to argue with Sir Anthony? He might invite me to dinner. With fava beans and a nice chianti (I don’t know how to spell the sound effect).

John Quincy Adams played by Anthony Hopkins

Aside from that little question, and the fact that like all historical films, some stretching of the truth may occur, most of the movie really works. Sir Anthony is great as always, as are Freeman et al. McConaughey shows that, in spite of all of the Failure to Launch crap that he does, when given half a chance he can really act. I could still name 100 actors I would have rather seen in the part though.

The real star performer in Amistad is Djimon Hounsou. He plays Cinque as the consummate strong, proud African. In spite of being shackled and unable to fully communicate, he radiates strength and intelligence. Even though he understands nothing that’s going on around him, he knows so much.

Martin Van Buren played by Nigel Hawthorne

Like Schindler’s List before it, and Saving Private Ryan after it – with Amistad, Spielberg showed that he can handle horrifying events in our history without sparing either the horror or the humanity. When Cinque tells the story of his capture and the events on board La Amistad, Spielberg doesn’t sugar coat it one bit. As much as any mere movie can do, Amistad captures the horrifying inhumanity that slavery really was (and still is). Watch Amistad’s scenes of the Middle Passage, then go watch Gone With the Wind with its simple minded happy slaves, then ask me why I hate that fucking movie so much.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

I saw this movie with Tania when it first came out. It led to one of many discussions, discussions I still have with my African American friends who have slavery as a part of their family history. Seeing it was one step on my journey to becoming what I call an “enlightened white man in training.” That training is ongoing.

Aside from McConaughey and entirely too many mutton chops on screen, it’s hard to find much fault with Amistad. Although, as always, some historical liberties were taken, I think the movie tells the truth right up to the extremely bittersweet ending.

Gypsy

Random Quote Whore Quote

Amistad is a latreutic, advised, seminar of a movie! Sir Anthony Hopkins is implicated!!!

Closing Love Theme

When I watch this movie I keep thinking about this amazing song from Labi Siffre. Although he wrote it in the 80s about Apartheid, it just speaks volumes about the ultimate futility of anyone trying to hold another people or culture down:

The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The farther you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me
You can decide to turn your face away
No matter, ’cause there’s….

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho
Your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time
You squander wealth that’s mine
My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you
‘Cause there’s……

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not good enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway
I’m gonna do it anyway

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just good not enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway
I’m gonna do it anyway
I’m gonna do it anyway
I’m gonna do it anyway

Because there’s something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh something inside so strong

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2 thoughts on “Random Movie Review – Amistad

  1. Due to my completely irrational spoiler neurosis I hardly ever read your movie reviews. However, for the movies I’ve already watched, these reviews are fast becoming a guilty pleasure. They’re really rather good. Ps. I do a very similar thing with The Telegraph AFTER watching BBC period dramas (e.g. ‘Parade’s End’).

    • Thanks Cheyelle, and I understand. I rarely read reviews anymore.

      Here’s a thought. Since I already have the next several Random Movies queued up on Netflix, maybe I should let you all know what the next one will be. That way those who have access to Netflix or other services, and are so inclined, can watch it then come back here and discuss.

      If that works for you or any of my other fervent readers, my next Random Movie will be Lan Yu, a Chinese film from 2001: http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Lan-Yu/60028143?trkid=5966279

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