Amistad

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Amistad (1997)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, Djimon Hounsou

Captured African slaves have taken over the slave ship carrying them to America. Their victory is short-lived since they are soon taken by American sailors and held as disputed property. Now a young lawyer (McConaughey), a free black man (Freeman), and a former President (Hopkins) work to free these slaves. Their case isn’t just about ownership of property, it’s about the future of the institution of slavery in 1839.

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I have doubts that anyone is more qualified to make films about real moments in history than Steven Spielberg. He’s successfully portrayed the Holocaust (Schindler’s List), Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln), and D-Day (Saving Private Ryan). This film can be added to that list of successes. In addition to four Oscar nominations this movie delivers a powerful message.

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The acting throughout the film is good. Hopkins (Thor), Hounsou (Gladiator), and Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) all do some great work. Hounsou is especially good, bringing a ton of emotion to an important character in the film. Casting Matthew McConaughey as the young ambitious attorney was an interesting choice. He does a good job with the role, but seems to come out of character at times. It’s not enough to hurt the overall movie, but it makes his part a bit weaker than I hoped for. The remainder of the cast all do nice work with some very gritty scenes throughout the film.

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Spielberg doesn’t hold back when it comes to uncovering the brutality of history. This time he portrays the violence, abuse, and horror of slave trading. The scenes of violence towards the slaves are intense and emotional. The camera work and other technical aspects of the film seem to capture the essence of the moments perfectly. Adding in an incredible score really helped to capture the emotions.

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This isn’t a film for everyone. If you’re uncomfortable with scenes of violence or abuse, you might want to skip this one. It doesn’t avoid looking the subject right in the eye. If you’re a fan of Spielberg, this is one you need to see. For anyone who loves history in films, I think this is one you’ll enjoy. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 155 minutes

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