Credits: Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, David Paymer, Anthony Hopkins, Pete Postlethwaite, Anna Paquin, Nigel Hawthorne, Djimon Hounsou, Stellan Skarsgård, Razaaq Adoti and Abu Bakaar Fofanah.
Details: (M), 152 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Based on actual events in 1838, AMISTAD is the story of captured African slaves who took over their transport ship in a bloody revolt with the hopes of returning back to their homeland. After the slaves are caught and imprisoned, their leader, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), unable to understand the language or court system of America, tries to communicate his desire to return home to his defense lawyer, Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey), and former slave Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman). The men plead for help with their groundbreaking court case from former president John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins).
The story ends up being more about how great America instead of the slave revolt.
Amistad is a terrific story - it`s about a slave revolt in 1839 on board La Amistad, a Spanish ship sailing off the coast of Cuba. But instead of finding their way back to Africa the slaves, led by Cinque - Djimon Hounsou - arrive in America where they`re imprisoned and charged with murder and piracy. But there are complicated issues surrounding this event - the Spanish claim the slaves, the two coast-guards who found the ship claim them as salvage, the slave traders want them back. And two abolitionists -Theodore Joadson - Morgan Freeman and Lewis Tappan - Stellan Skarsgard - want them freed. They employ a young lawyer - Roger Baldwin - Matthew McConaughey to fight their case. And the internal politics of the United States comes into play - President Martin van Buren - Nigel Hawthorne- is seeking re-election and doesn`t want the Southern States offside. Into this seething mass of conflicting interests comes former President John Quincy Adams - Anthony Hopkins.
There`s something paternalistic about Amistad that actually alienated me. As I said it`s a great story, but it`s handled so ponderously by Spielberg, the use of John Williams` music is a major turn-off. The inconsistency of the subtitles irritated me - why subtitle Spanish and not the African language of the slaves until they get to America? Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Hawthorn and Morgan Freeman are consistently solid as performers, but Matthew McConnaughy has a twentieth century look and manner to him that just doesn`t sit right here, and in the end the story ends up being not so much about the slaves themselves, but more about how great America is. No, I was less than bowled over by this one.
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