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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Amistad (1997)



Reviews and Comments

Amistad works in many ways, and, frustratingly, doesn't in others. Where it succeeds is with the slave characters, the leader played by Djimon Hounsou. The clashing of cultures, the juxtaposition of the application of seemingly universal themes with those who cannot relate to them, is all nicely done and fascinating to watch. Anthony Hopkins, as John Quincy Adams, turns in a fine performance, and he, too, is a joy to behold.

Where Amistad fails, at least with clever intentions, is with the breadth of its scope. The legal wrangling and the political bickering and so forth that surround the story are not so much edifying as distracting. I got the sense Spielberg was trying to show how a mutiny on a slave ship caused such a stir -- but by providing such a big picture when only the central portions are interesting, the film loses a lot of its emotional impact. I did like the film, but it's not Spielberg's best work.