There is a fascinating true story and great movie…in there…somewhere. David O. Russell’s star-studded Amsterdam is a bloated, poorly paced movie that places far more emphasis on repetitive, pedantic social commentary than it does on lean storytelling and strategic plotting. If not for the powerhouse cast, the movie would be nearly unwatchable. A litmus test I give a movie is (1) if I look at my watch and (2) if so, how often. If I am looking at the time, then I am not engrossed in the story. And I looked at my watch many times during this lengthy quasi-historical drama. Amsterdam demonstrably has little idea or security in what it wants to be. Is it a dark comedy? Is it a drama? Is it satire? All valid questions for which there is no clear answer, because it struggles to find the proper tone that best expresses its story. Although the social commentary on race relations quickly becomes redundant, it does highlight some areas of wartime history of which many, including myself, are likely unaware. Such as soldiers of color being forced to wear French uniforms–had no idea! So I am glad that this disrespectful chapter in history was highlighted for modern audiences. Clearly this movie should have been an Oscar vehicle for Russell, his cast, and crew, From beginning to end, it’s easy to read this film as a desperate attempt to win over general audiences and critics by convincing them that there is something to see here; unfortunately, what should have been an incredibly interesting mystery and untold true story suffocates under the poorly written and structured screenplay.
Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.
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