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amsterdam

★★★

starring: christian bale, margot robbie, john david washington, and rami malek

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

In the 1930s, three friends witness a murder, are framed for it, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.

Set in 1933, Amsterdam follows New York doctor Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) and his best friend, lawyer Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), who not only served with him in France but helps him advocate for forgotten veterans. They are hired by wealthy and connected socialite Elizabeth Meekins (Taylor Swift) to investigate the suspicious death of her father Bill, the military commander that led Berendsen and Woodsman’s battalion. 

Through a series of unfortunate events, Berendsen and Woodsman are framed for murder and to clear their names they must unravel the mystery of the death of their former commander which will lead them back into their past and the unravelling of a conspiracy that lies at the very heart of power in America and throughout the world. 

Amsterdam is a strange beast. Boasting a stellar, all star ensemble cast where nearly every scene change reveals another hushed “Oh, look, it’s (insert famous actors name here)” from the audience and acclaimed director David O. Russell of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle fame at the helm, and Amsterdam is bursting with promise. 

But instead of reaching the dizzying heights of his previous work, Amsterdam is a mixture of stellar performances and intriguing character developments with an inconsistent tone and sub narratives. 

Amsterdam doesn’t quite commit to the madcap humor of Bale’s character Berendsen taking experimental medication that he concocted himself resulting in him collapsing to the ground several times throughout the film or the films more serious undertones and narrative featuring blood soaked soldiers maimed by shrapnel and the terror of a sinister plot of world rule. This leaves the audience somewhat stranded in a strange no man’s land of competing sub narratives, tones, and themes. 

While most will pick where the plot is going to end up, the saving grace of Amsterdam is the journey it takes us on in the central murder plot alongside the characterizations, and the ensemble cast, especially the three main leads. 

While Amsterdam has a confusing mix of tones, themes, and sub narratives, the central plot, ensemble cast and Bale, Robbie, and David Washington in particular make the journey more than worth it. 

★★★