With its whiplash-inducing tonal inconsistencies and poorly put together narrative, amsterdam often feels like a pastiche of (take your pick) Monty Python, The Coen Brothers, or Wes Anderson grafted onto a crime/spy thriller with a strong allegorical message about fascism. It’s more the freewheeling David O. Russell of american hustlewho also spun early before settling down, than the disciplined filmmaker who made Silver Linings Playbook and The fighter. It takes well over an hour amsterdam decides what it wants to be, and by then viewers may be exasperated by the film’s weirdness and exhausted by its meandering, hazy storyline.
Considering the talent involved, anything less than a home run should be considered a disappointment. One of the downsides of having so many well-known actors vying for screen time is that none of them get a chance to shine (much like in 2021 Don’t look up). Narratively, the story (an opening caption informs us that “a lot of this actually happened”), which fictionalizes a Depression-era plot to replace FDR with a respected military , is not uninteresting but it takes too long for Russell to go through the preliminaries. The movie only starts to pick up steam when Robert De Niro shows up, and that’s over an hour into the proceedings.
Russell’s attempts at slime comedy are inexpert; it’s not Preston Sturges. One of the problems is that the main trio – doctor Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), lawyer Harold Woodman (John David Washington) and the shut-in Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie) – are barely drawn. They never become real and the romantic attachment between Harold and Valerie is stronger in Russell’s imagination than on screen. By using a nonlinear structure to establish the characters and their circumstances, Russell is more likely to confuse viewers than add multidimensionality to the characters. The first half is a draft.
Chronologically, amsterdam begins during the last year of the First World War. This is where Burt, Harold and Valerie meet: they are wounded soldiers and she is a nurse. After the war, the trio travel to Amsterdam, where they enjoy an idyllic break from reality before Valerie disappears and Burt and Harold return to the United States – the first to become a doctor obsessed with repairing disfigurements. veterans and the second to study law. . Fifteen years later, Burt and Harold remain friends but neither has seen Valérie since Amsterdam. That’s about to change, however.
Burt and Harold are approached by Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift), the daughter of their beloved former commander, General Bill Meekins (Ed Begley Jr.), to investigate the circumstances surrounding her father’s death. Contrary to the official cause of death, Liz believes he was murdered. It doesn’t take much to convince Burt and Harold that she might be right, but a series of bad breakups and coincidences cause Burt and Harold to run from the law in an attempt to clear themselves. This brings them back into contact with Valerie with her brother, Tom (Rami Malek), and Tom’s wife, Libby (Anya Taylor-Joy). Tom wants to help and has powerful connections but won’t reach out…unless Burt and Harold can convince the revered General Gil Dillenbeck (Robert De Niro) to speak up in their defense. Against Tom’s wishes, Valerie accompanies the men as they leave.
Christian Bale’s performance is delightfully insane. Burt, with his glass eye and penchant for slapstick, is something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Bale is matched beat for beat by Margot Robbie, whose good faith for the prank dates back to her telling turn in Martin Scorsese. the wolf of Wall Street. That leaves John David Washington as the straight man, the Bud Abbott to Bale’s Lou Costello – it’s a role that fits him like a glove. The backing ensemble is jam-packed with recognizable names. In addition to Rami Malek, Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy and Robert De Niro, Russell (despite a checkered reputation) was able to attract Andrea Riseborough (as Burt’s wife), Alessandro Nivola and Matthias Schoenaets (in as two detectives), Michael Shannon and Mike Myers (as birdwatching secret agents), Zoe Saldana (as Burt’s love interest – sparks fly during an autopsy), and Chris Rock. Of these, Saldana is underutilized and there are a few too many Myers.
amsterdamThe policy is obvious to anyone watching. Although the events take place mainly in the 1930s, there is no doubt that Russell draws parallels with today. It may be just one of many items in the director’s busy schedule for the film, but it’s the one that’s most likely to catch fire in some quarters. While the parallels are imperfect, the script does its best to italicize them, equating the global rise of fascism and nationalism in the 1930s with similar political movements in recent years. Sometimes the observations are precise, but they are also a distraction, intentionally taking the viewer away from the film’s setting.
There’s no lack of ambition in what Russell is trying with amsterdam
but his goals exceed his ability to achieve them. Many scenes and moments, taken in isolation, are effective, but the juxtaposition of so many conflicting elements creates an unwelcome tension between comedy, drama and suspense that the filmmakers are unable to manage. The lack of chemistry between tracks doesn’t help the scattered storytelling. In short, amsterdam is a mix of good and bad – perhaps the least imposing entry in Russell’s solid filmography, but by no means unassailable. It just takes a bit of courage to get through the first hour.
Amsterdam (USA, 2022)
Director: David O. Russell
With: Christian Bale, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Taylor Swift, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Andrea Riseborough, Alessandro Nivola, John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Robert De Niro
Screenplay: David O. Russell
Director of photography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Music: Daniel Pemberton
US Distributor: 20th Century Studios