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|Format||Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen, Dolby|
|Contributor||Abu Bakaar Fofanah, Steven Spielberg, Razaaq Adoti, Anna Paquin, David Paymer, Stellan Skarsgrd, Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, Tomas Milian, David Franzoni, Djimon Hounsou, Pete Postlethwaite, Nigel Hawthorne See more|
|Runtime||2 hours and 35 minutes|
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Steven Speilberg's intense historical drama starring Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, Dijimon Hounsou and Matthew McConaughey. (1997) Running time: 155 minutes.
Steven Spielberg's most simplistic, sanitized history lesson, Amistad, explores the symbolic 1840s trials of 53 West Africans following their bloody rebellion aboard a slave ship. For most of Schindler's List (and, later, Saving Private Ryan) Spielberg restrains himself from the sweeping narrative and technical flourishes that make him one of our most entertaining and manipulative directors. Here, he doesn't even bother trying, succumbing to his driving need to entertain with beautiful images and contrived emotion. He cheapens his grandiose motives and simplifies slavery, treating it as cut- and-dry genre piece. Characters are easy Hollywood stereotypes--"villains" like the Spanish sailors or zealous abolitionists are drawn one-dimensionally and sneered upon. And Spielberg can't suppress his gifted eye, undercutting normally ugly sequences, such as the terrifying slave passage, which is shot as a gorgeous, well-lit composition. At its core, Amistad is a traditional courtroom drama, centered by a tired, clichéd narrative: a struggling, idealistic young lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) fighting the crooked political system and saving helpless victims. Worse yet, Spielberg actually takes the underlying premise of his childhood fantasy, E.T. and repackages it for slavery. Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), the leader of the West African rebellion, is presented much like the adorable alien: lost, lacking a common language, and trying to find his way home. McConaughey is a grown-up Elliot who tries communicating complicated ideas such as geography by drawing pictures in the sand or language by having Cinque mimic his facial expressions. Such stuff was effective for a sci-fi fantasy about the communication barriers between a boy and a lost alien; here, it seems like a naive view of real, complex history. --Dave McCoy
- Aspect Ratio : 1.85:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : R (Restricted)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.38 x 0.6 inches; 2.12 Ounces
- Item model number : MFR667068416220#VG
- Director : Steven Spielberg
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen, Dolby
- Run time : 2 hours and 35 minutes
- Release date : May 4, 1999
- Actors : Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne
- Dubbed: : French, Spanish
- Subtitles: : English
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Unqualified
- Studio : Dreamworks Video
- ASIN : 0783231202
- Writers : David Franzoni
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 1
- Customer Reviews:
Reviewed in the United States on October 21, 2022
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Based on the events that took place in 1839. The Spanish slave ship La Amistad, is used to transport Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade.
After gaining control of their captors' ship off the coast of Cuba, an international legal battle followed their capture by the Washington, a U.S. revenue cutter.
The case was determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841.
The events surrounding La Amistad are complex and were necessarily simplified for dramatic purposes in the movie. The film begins in the hold of the ship as a group of captured Africans succeed in breaking their chains. They kill most of the Spanish crew but leave the two ship owners alive to sail the ship back to Africa. The owners sail the ship to the American coast instead. The United States captures the ship and begins legal proceedings to determine what is to be done with what appear to be the mutinous slaves, the ship, and the two owners. The government of Spain claims a right to the slaves based in part on treaties. Great Britain wants the slaves freed. The United States through its waffling president at the time, Martin Van Buren, wants to support Spain.
The case is tried twice in Federal courts in New Haven Connecticut with the slaves represented by a rising young lawyer, Roger Baldwin. In both trials, Baldwin is able to show that the Africans were not escaped slaves but rather had been illegally captured and carried off from Sierra Leone. When the United States appeals the case to the Supreme Court, John Quincy Adams agrees to assist in the defense of the Africans. The Supreme Court rules in their favor, 8-1.
A popular movie such as "Amistad" is not held out as a documentary but is instead a mix of entertainment and history. With the basic background knowledge I brought to the film, I thought it generally succeeded as both, particularly as entertainment. The movie runs over 2.5 hours and held my attention throughout even though much of it is set in courtrooms. The movie includes some excellent special effects in scenery, including the initial rebellion on board the "Amistad", the scenes of cruelty and suffering on board an earlier slaver the "Tecora" which had abducted the prisoners from Africa, and the destruction of the Sierra Leone "slave fortress" by a British schooner at the end of the film. The acting is well done throughout with Anthony Hopkins capturing the character of the aged John Quincy Adams. Dijimon Honsou portrays Cinque, the leader of the captured Africans. Matthew McConaugey is effective as the young, tough minded attorney Baldwin while Peter Posthalwaite portrays the United States attorney, Holabird. Morgan Freeman plays an escaped slave, Theodore Joadson, who works with an abolitionist group in the defense of the case. The then former Supreme Court Justice, Harry Blackmun has a brief role portraying Justice Joseph Story, who delivered the opinion in the "Amistad" case.
On a historical level, Hopkins' crusty, curmudgeonly John Quincy Adams did a good job capturing both what I understand of his character and his basic role in the "Amistad" proceedings. For the rest, the movie should be taken as accurate only in its broadest sense as involving the fate of the captured Africans, the legal proceedings, and the background in slavery. The character of Joadson, for example, is fictitious, and the threat in the film of Senator John Calhoun that the South would secede in the event of a court ruling in favor of the Africans is drawn from air. The proceeding was more about the outlawed international slave trade than about domestic slavery in the United States. The Court that ruled in favor of freedom for the Africans consisted largely of Southerners. Although a great oversimplification, the film properly emphasized the role the case ultimately assumed in the conflict over slavery, the importance of the case in the protection of separation of powers, and John Quincy Adams' role in the defense. Adams' appearance and presentation before the Court were courageous and invaluable. The legal arguments on which the Africans secured their freedom were developed and presented by Baldwin, in both the lower courts and the Supreme Court, as the film properly shows. With its inaccuracies, "Amistad" offers a valuable popular approach to this historical incident for the overwhelming number of people who otherwise would have little or no knowledge. Perhaps the film serves as encouragement to some to pursue a historical interest further through reading.
I learned a great deal from reading the varied Amazon reviews of "Amistad". Many reviewers thoroughly liked the film. Other reviewers were critical of various aspects of the entertainment or aesthetic value of the movie while still others were critical of its presentation of history. I liked the movie and think it valuable for entertainment and basic history. With guidance and discussion, the film could serve as a simple effective teaching tool for secondary school students.
Prejudice people MUST see this video, not that it will change their minds but it is a reminder of why Blacks are always upset at us whites. As for me, I love my Black friends!
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just as well then that spielberg generally releases a blockbuster the same year as a non blockbuster film e.g.. "jurrasic park" and "schindlers list", "war of the worlds" and "munich". "amistad" was the non blockbuster to "the lost world's" commercial success. not to say that "amistad" is any less of a film than "the lost world" but it would have always been less successful than a dinosaur adventure thriller with CGI around every corner. i think that is part of spielbergs success, release a film highlighting some very real very difficult issues to please the critics, then release a blockbuster to get bums on seats and make sure the money is made.
well that was a major digressional tangent wasn't it? shall i get on with actually reviewing this film? yes i think i should..
the opening scene was probably the highlight of the film for me it just looked amazing and i really got a feel for the hunger and passion for freedom that the slaves had in the revolt. the film, however, quickly devolves into a big-budget classroom documentary, albeit a reasonably gripping one. beautifully filmed, and well-acted (particularly by djimon hounsou), Spielberg's film loses momentum each time he halts for scenes of courtroom "drama".
the harrowing flashbacks to life aboard the Amistad provoked a feeling of disgust in me, which i am sure was the intention. but i did get a feeling of pride to find that the british were pretty much the freedom fighters of the time, and the scene where the british destroy the slave fortress made me smile, as in film, english people are all to often portrayed to be the bad guys but in real life we all know we're the good guys.
In its best moments, Amistad reveals Spielberg as a man committed to showing us how it really was, in its worst moments, the film reveals a director who is maybe a bit too devoted to informing the audience of the really inconsequential details of the time, making the whole pace of the film go a bit to slow for my tastes.
i would give "amistad" 3 out of 5 stars.