Plot: What’s it about?
La Amistad is a Spanish slave ship, which runs from the coastal regions of Africa to carry the human cargo to market. One fateful voyage, during an intense thunderstorm, the slaves manage to free themselves from their shackles, and stage a revolt. Their attempt is a success, and the fighting left the majority of the Spanish captors dead or well on their way to being that way. The slaves are unable to navigate the slave ship however, so they force a couple surviving captors to chart the passage back to their homes. But what they don’t know is that the ship isn’t headed back to Africa, instead it is sailing directly toward the American shore, and that’s where it lands. Once the remnants of the revolt are discovered, the slaves are arrested and charged with murder, sent to trial to face the consequences of their actions. The slaves have no ability to communicate with the officials, so chances of them proving their story are slim at best. But one lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) sees this as a chance to establish himself, and takes action, choosing one of the slaves, Cinque, to represent them all, and hires a translator to aid in the cause. But with all the political forces lining up against the slaves, can anything be done to restore the freedom of these men?
Amistad is a mediocre movie which if done by any other director would be ignored. But since Steven Spielberg is at the helm, Amistad managed to attain a high profile, no matter how hollow the movie itself is. After receiving endless praise for Schindler’s List, it’s more than obvious Spielberg tried to duplicate that success here, with failing results. This seems more fitting as a USA original picture than a Spielberg major motion picture. Now, don’t think the movie is all bad, because it’s not. But when compared to Schindler’s List, Amistad looks like a self-serving student film. In all honesty, I find the story, even if true, to be quite boring, and I don’t feel a movie was needed. In a novel or history book, this is a fine story, but a fine story doesn’t make a good movie. I think if you’re interested, you should give it a chance, but don’t expect another modern day classic, but this doesn’t even come close.
Now, Amistad lacked superior writing and the story itself is quite dull, but the casting is very good, and is the only merit the film has to keep afloat. I mean, no one gives a bad performance here, but the whole thing never gels. While the actors give their best, the performances never meld together, and the characters are never explored much. So what could have been a stirring study of personalities, ended up a series of separate performances, which makes up an unrelated whole. The best performances come from Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en), Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, Meet Joe Black), Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator), and Nigel Hawthorne (The Big Brass Ring, The Madness of King George). These actors seem to have that comfort in their roles that makes them realistic. The other performers turn in good acting, but lack that relaxed nature that would make them a little more believable. The cast also includes Anna Paquin (She’s All That, The Piano), Matthew McConaughey (EdTv, Dazed and Confused), David Paymer (Carpool, Payback), Stellan Skarsgard (Insomnia, Deep Blue Sea), and Pete Postlethwaite (Brassed Off, Animal Farm).
Video: How does it look?
The 1.85:1 image is enhanced for widescreen TV’s and it the appearance is flawless. The colors are bright and vivid with not even the slightest hint of artifacting. Dreamworks is known for their great transfers, and this is certainly no exception.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is the DTS version of Amistad. DTS adds depth to what was already a great soundtrack. There are several very subtle differences between this and the Dolby Digital version, one I noticed immediately was the rain at the very beginning. It’s almost like you can hear each individual drop hit the boat. While Amistad isn’t exactly a movie built on sound, it does have a very good soundtrack. The DTS makes it come alive! The Dolby Digital version had a few extras on it, but I’d say go with this version and get the much better soundtrack.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are no extras.