- Run time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Studio: 20th Century Studios
- Director: David O. Russell
- Where to Watch: In Theaters
Amsterdam is centered around 3 wildly different individuals drawn together after the calamity of World War I. There’s Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), the white knight doctor who only wants to help others. He’s best friends with his squad mate and lawyer, Harold Woodson (John David Washington). When Burt and Harold are injured in battle, they are taken to a field hospital and are nursed back to life by Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie), an artist and bleeding heart with a mysterious past. Together the three of them make a pact to always support each other and be there when they are needed. When Burt starts to ache for home and Harold aspires to defend his fellow veterans from the law, Valerie disappears and the group breaks up. Ten years later, Burt and Harold are working together in New York and are hired by a strange and wealthy woman named Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift). Liz wants an autopsy done on her father and to have his death formally investigated. But upon meeting up with Liz Meekins to share the results, she is killed by a strange man and they are blamed for her death. As prime suspects, Burt and Harold must chase this conspiracy to its origin in order to clear their names.
The summary of Amsterdam makes it seem a lot more interesting than it really was. The trailer sold the movie like it would be a 1930s whodunnit version of Knives Out, with a similar ensemble cast and lots of flair. But the final product on screen was disjointed and marred with pacing issues. Russell would change direction midway through certain story beats and it came across very awkwardly. It wasn’t even until the first hour was up that the real plot of the story was revealed. That is way too much set up time and then it makes the rest of the story feel like the main characters are just along for the ride, and not really part of it. Maybe that was the point, maybe it wasn’t. If it was the point, it’s a huge miss on the part of Russell for making them feel so insignificant without a compelling enough story to justify them being there. The entire story just didn’t feel interesting enough to garner my full attention. I consider myself a fan of history and know a fair share of interesting tidbits, but Amsterdam‘s main plot just didn’t grab me. I struggled to even stay awake for a 3:30 pm movie, that’s how dull it was at times. The commentary and emphasis on history repeating itself (time is a flat circle, anyone?) is boring in it’s presentation. It almost has a bit of a tongue in cheek tone when dealing with fascism and racism. That isn’t cute or funny and having Chris Rock make jokes about it feels cheap.
The cast is the main selling point for this movie. Christian Bale, John David Washington, and Margot Robbie is an interesting combination. Each of them have carried plenty of movies to success. Putting all of them together should have paid off but it doesn’t. The main cast feels like it keeps deferring to one another to lead the scene. There are several instances were they just couldn’t click and it really stopped the movie in its tracks.
A few of the supporting cast members do a good job of actually being interesting and pushing the story forward. Michael Shannon and Mike Myers’ characters (two bird watching FBI and MI-6 agents) are the typical g-men that one would associate with early 1930s governments. I would watch a whole movie about them trying to weed out this conspiracy across the world. That would have been a much more entertaining story that ultimately ends up with the same conclusion. The rest of the supporting cast is fine because they’re mostly bit roles, like Rami Malek and Anya Taylor Joy playing witless white nationalists or Robert De Niro playing the honorable General Gil Dillenbeck. The sum of the parts of this movie far outweigh the sum of the whole and this movie is a gigantic flop because of the mis-management of talent.
The look and feel of Amsterdam is ok to decent at best. There aren’t any jaw dropping scenes or images that one might expect from a movie of this magnitude. Everything felt standard and safe, even the more visually distinct things that were shown to highlight Valerie’s artistry. It looked like the type of stuff my sister posts on Instagram (Sorry, Daphne, but it’s true). There were a few good soundtracks layered in through the background to remind me I’m watching a movie in the 1930s, but there just isn’t anything special about it. The movie felt too clean for a 1930s based movie.
David O. Russell directs Amsterdam, a studded ensemble 2022 crime comedy about a plot to overthrow the US government between WWI and WWII. The picture stars Christian Bale, John David Washington, and Margot Robbie as the main trio of characters. Supporting cast includes members of the Hollywood elite like Robert De Niro, Michael Shannon, Rami Malek, and Anya Taylor Joy. With enough star power and charisma to brainwash studio execs into greenlighting this movie, Amsterdam ends up being a shallow and below average movie. Lacking overall cast chemistry and a compelling narrative structure, Amsterdam should have been a safe bet, but it doesn’t mange to pay off at all. If anything, I’m more excited for Babylon now.