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on 16 March 2000
Amistad was released in the UK cinema just a few months before Saving Private Ryan. The hype surrounding Ryan, Spielberg and Dreamworks at the time seemed to overshadow the fact that Dreamworks first Spielberg film, Amistad had been released. This could account for the relatively modest numbers of bums on seats. Which is a crying shame. Whilst Amistad may not have the shattering impact of Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan, this is great Spielberg film-making, full of moments of magical cinema. Based on the true story of a slaves revolt on the ship Amistad, subsequent capture and trial in America, the script provides the all-start cast ample opportunity to flex their jaw-muscles. Particularly outstanding is the performance of Djimon Hounsou one of the slaves struggling for freedom. Overall this is one of the best films of the late 90s - if you didn't get to see it at the cinema, catch up with it now on video.
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on 27 February 2003
Most reviewers either seemed to love or hate this film. I ended up somewhere in the middle, hence the three stars.
At its best, "Amistad" reminds us that the evil of slavery caused terrible suffering to real people and that its abolition was one of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth century. In a world where there are still pockets of slave commerce, it is a reminder of how serious this evil is. The re-creation of a Portugese slave ship and the horrors inflicted on its victims was very well done, and to me the most powerful sequence in the film was that where chained slaves are dragged over the side to drown due to the crew miscalculating the amount of supplies required for the crossing.
At its worst the film contained some sequences which appeared to be overly artificial. Anthony Hopkins is an excellent actor, but there is something unconvincing about his portrayal of John Quincey Adams - it just seemed too saccharine. As I am not familiar with the details of the actual court case I cannot say anything with authority, but the version in the film seemed rather formulaic - hopeless case gains unexpected triumph at hands of struggling young lawyer (seems a bit familiar), then there is a reversal of fortunes, but triumph in the end. The scene of the destruction of the slavers' base in Sierra Leone seemed rather tagged on the end, but did at least give a pleasant reminder that for once the British were on the side of the angels and morally ahead of those nasty colonials who did not stop trading human lives for money until forced to.
Bottom line? There are a lot of third rate movies out there and this is definitely not one of those. It is a film that is worth the time to watch, but I had hoped for better.
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The film by award winning director 'Steven Spielberg' is based on a true story.
The year 1839 though many activists campaign to rid the World of slavery in
many places the trade was alive and well at this time.
This story tells of a group of enslaved 'Africans' on their enforced journey take
over the ship 'LA AMISTAD' with the intention of sailing her back to their
However, despite their efforts, the 'LA AMISTAD'' mutineers are recaptured...they
will now face a trial in 'America'
The court will hear claims of ownership of the defendants, the trial is followed by
the whole nation, it becomes an issue of Human Rights for the enslaved 'Africans'
A team is brought together to defend the defendants 'Mathew .S. Baldwin' played
by 'Mathew McConaughey' and 'Theodore Joadson' played by 'Morgan Freeman'
Language difficulties are a real problem between Council and Defendants'
For the Lawyers what starts as just another job soon becomes a mission, though
the defence's presentations are proven it is not and end to the ordeal for the
defendants as a new judge is appointed which means it all has to be done again.
'Mathew' and 'Theodore' desperately try to learn the basics of their clients language,
fortunately they stumble across a former slave that can act as a interpreter.
The spokesman for the enslaved defendants 'Cinque' (Djimon Hounsou) can for
the first time during the second trial tell the court his story of how he and others are
forcefully taken from their Homeland and then on a torrid journey, firstly on the ship
'The Tecara' to Cuba, and how many, the now defendants came to be on the 'LA -
The Judge rules in their favour concluding the defendants were in deed born in 'Africa'
and could not be looked upon as slaves,.
However as history records the celebrations of both the Defence Team and Defendants
are soon muted as the case is referred to 'THE SUPREME COURT'
Former President and lawyer 'John Quincy Adams' a well known abolitionist is persuaded
to join the defence team and lead the argument on behalf of the defendants.
This is a remarkable and well portrayed drama harbouring many great performances
from the cast involved.
The film is both moving and engaging.......well worth taking time out to view.
The picture and sound quality of this 1997 movie is excellent.
The Film on the Blu-ray format is only available from the U.S.(Import) on the Amazon site,
the good news is that the film is 'MULTI - REGION'
Special Features -
* The Making of 'Amistad'
* Theatrical Trailer HD
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on 27 July 2011
i find, as the creator of the summer blockbuster, spielberg is great at making blockbusters. but spielberg doesn't just make blockbusters he does another type of film a film like "the colour purple" a film like "munich" and a film like "amistad". unlike the blockbuster films, this type of film isn't guaranteed to be a enjoyable film for me, i think these non blockbusters are a bit hit and miss.

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.
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on 6 December 2006
I really enjoyed this film. The historical representations of the different nations and races I think are very accurate too. Slavery was a brutal trade and I think this film encapsulates the ferocity of its methods very well. It had me moved quite a few times with excellent performances from Matthew McConaughey and even more so, Djimon Hounsou. As mentioned in previous reviews, there are a number of movie cliche`s, most obvious, the struggling young lawyer who wins a major case. Also, certain scenes seemed to be over edited. Cinque`s testimony didnt seem as if it was all there. However, a great watch which really grabs your enthusiasm as well as your sympathy on many occasions.
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on 30 January 2009
`Amistad' is an uncomfortable reminder of a fact that many Americans would like to ignore. That having supposedly overthrown the oppressive rule of King George III on the grounds that "All men are created equal," (with I might add, massive support from the Despotic Monarchy of France,) the `Evil' British Empire banned slavery decades before they did. That Abraham Lincoln only banned slavery and fought the Civil War because it was a hindrance to trade with that Empire. And that even now, America is a Nation of Democracy and Freedom for everyone, as long as they are rich, Protestant, speak English and most importantly, are white.

In the words of Anthony Hopkins, playing the role of John Quincy Adams as he defends the man who fought and killed to free himself and the rest of the Spaniard's `Property,' "If he were white and his oppressors had been British, he would not be able to stand for the weight of medals we would pin upon his chest"

Having been born in Hull and visited the William Wiberforce Museum on many occasions, I can say for certain that in this film, the recreation of the abuse and murder of slaves taken from Africa is more compelling than a thousand museum exhibits. And before they continue spreading their hypocritical dream of `Freedom & Democracy' across the world, the Americans should first admit the truth about their terrible past.
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on 3 December 2010
Amistad is an excellent film based on the real life story of a ship taken by its captives that ended up in U.S. territorial waters and then became a celebrated case in the United States legal system just as the country was starting to tear itself apart over the issue of slavery. It is a magnificent film with a great cast and although it may seem a rather dry topic to make a movie about it is a wonderful, enthralling, moving and at times humourous work.
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Amistad is a true story about an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship that is traveling towards North America. It is a story in the period when new slaves were illegal, but trading in slaves that were already slaves, was allowed. With a powerful all-star cast including Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and Matthew McConaughey, it is a story that will grip your heart and move your spirit. Much of the story takes place in a courtroom drama about the free-man who led the revolt, and deals with questions of freedom, humanity and dignity.

The movie, though slow moving, is intense, and the drama builds as many groups claim the slaves as their property. This story is truly gripping and a story of extreme importance in understanding our own history. This lesser-known Spielberg film is truly a must see.
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on 16 August 2007
I'm a fan of the movies put out by Steven Spielberg. He has taken true historical events and turned them into such captivating beautiful movies that none can compare. What Spielberg did for the Holocaust in "Schindler's List," and WWII in "Saving Private Ryan," he did with our terrible past of slavery in "Amistad." This film's strength is in its portrayal of the horrible treatment of the Sierra Leone Africans who are illegally captured for slaves in the 19th century. This movie, and the event itself, was not about freedom of slaves in America over an American issue, but instead about whether slaves on a Spanish vessel were illegally captured or if they were what lawyers in the film called "livestock" in the Spanish Empire when they killed all but a few of the boat-masters. The film portrays this and then the morality of slavery in an unobtrusive way, and that's what makes this movie great along with the score, which I believe should have gotten at least a nomination.

The film is gilded by beautiful sets and costumes where even "Doctor Zhivago" pales in comparison. The photography was more than stunning. However, the film is slightly marred by the somewhat empty performances by some of Americans in the film who lack emotion and engaging dialogue, and the film doesn't unfold as smoothly as one would expect from a Spielberg creation. There are other things that are underrated, such as Djimound Honsu's unforgettable performance as the leader of the slaves as well as the drama and ghastliness of the shipboard treatment of the slaves. The person that slightly disappointment in here is Matthew McConaheys. While not bad but not as good as it could have been. Morgan Freeman played is role well here but not his best because at times he would look slightly wooden. Anthony Hopkins in the other hand is amazing. His speech at the end will send shivers down your spine. There is also a beautiful scene of Hounsou and McConaughey character's communicating perfectly in languages the other doesn't know.

"Amistad" does give you emotional punch through a mild action sequence. It is purely drama, and the story's power lies in the words, expressions, and actions of the actors who make up for it. It's truly one of the better films out there, and once again, Spielberg has proven himself to be the master of putting the human spirit on the silver screen. Even though critics place it to be a `good' film I find it to be a great!
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on 3 May 2007
Amistad is on par with the very best of Spielberg's films and we can easily see why he is always so successful. He has long been treated as a Hollywood pariah by the "serious" film insiders because he dared to make popular films that were money makers. But a common thread that runs through all of the Spielberg films and even more so of his latest work is the courage of the main character or characters to fight through to win against all odds. This story was moving, touching and indeed a bit shocking as it brings home the inequities of our earliest days as a nation. It is loaded with a fantastic load of talent with Matthew McConaghey, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and the rest especially the actor playing Cinque (whose name escapes me at the moment.) It is simply a story that blows you away. Add to that another fabulous film score by Spielberg's pet composer John Williams and what more could you ask for. Another outstanding performance was the late Nigel Hawthorne as the clueless president Martin Van Buren. Does he remind you of any current political leaders? This film is another the equal of "Schindler's List" or "Saving Private Ryan."
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