Written and directed by David O. Russell and set in the ’30s, Amsterdam follows three friends who witness a murder, become suspects themselves, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.
Dr. Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) is a doctor who specializes in “fixing up banged-up guys like myself, ” veterans who struggle with missing limbs and faces, “all injuries the world was happy to forget.”
Then, unexpectedly. Burt and his lawyer friend Harold Woodman (John David Washington) get yanked into a bizarre mystery involving the death of a senator and beloved ex-general, which the man’s daughter (Taylor Swift) suspects to be murderer. Enter gorgeous artist Valerie (Margot Robbie), whom Burt and Harold last saw in Amsterdam many years ago and events become topsy turvy with a dark comedic twist. The production, costume, hair and make-up design are exquisite. Especially Valerie’s artwork being comprised of numeorus pieces of scrapnel taken for wounded soldier’s bodies.
Russell deserves major kudos for this speech delivered by General Gil Dillenbeck (Robert DeNiro) states, ” This is your country. Don’t let the big men take it away from you.” It’s a very bold statement on America’s current state political affairs, where the country has been divided into those who support the left and those who align with the right. I was also intrigued by the interracial storyline line for Irma St. Clair (Zoe Saldaña) while reiterating It’s never a good idea to get attached to people and things that may break your heart…but that’s life. It’s this adage along with “love is choosing someone and not needing them for another reason,” that finally reveals the true message of this film.
That’s the good news. The not so lovely news is Amsterdam is a three hour epic boasting an all-star cast with a plethora of close-up monologues, with pacing that is painfully slow.
As a David O’ Russell fan, I applaud his cinematic goal with this one, but, it just feels like he goes around the barn before arriving at the front door – leaving audiences with a cast of strong, amazing acting talent whose material never quite rises to the level of their star power.