Movie Review, Amsterdam


Story by Alex Paulino, Arts & Culture Editor

If there is anything positive to be said about Amsterdam, it comes within the first impressions. The palette, the cast, the style, it all illuminates an extremely promising film. 

I am not a huge fan of director and writer David O. Russell. I have seen a few of his works, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Fighter, and have never been entirely on board with his style. However, with Amsterdam, there were obvious influences being drawn from directors like Wes Anderson, and the first thing that struck me about the project was the clear presence of a vision. 

The story follows 3 friends, a doctor played by Christian Bale, a lawyer played by John David Washington, and a nurse played by Margot Robbie, during the lead-up to World War II. When the 2 of them are hired by a wealthy senator’s daughter to investigate her father’s death, they become witnesses to a murder and are promptly accused. This sets off a domino effect filled with love, conspiracy, and murder. It is a whodunit mystery being solved by completely unqualified characters. Admittedly, this is a concept that immediately hooked me. 

On top of that, the cast was filled with veterans and newcomers alike. Personal favorites of mine such as Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, and Zoe Saldaña appear in the film. As well as actors I have had an eye on for quite some time like John David Washington and Anya-Taylor Joy. 

Everything about Amsterdam seemed to tick off the right marks. There was a substantial hook, with a substantial cast, from a substantial director with substantial influences. Every aspect seemed to create the illusion that this film would serve as a highlight for 2022. 


(From left to right) Burt Berendsen, Valerie Voze, and Harold Woodman

The biggest plot twist in Amsterdam is its mediocrity. Never have I seen a film that had so much right yet when it came to execution, completely fumble everything. One could only ask “What happened?” once the credits start rolling. Did someone forge the script? Was David O. Russell’s brain replaced? Did someone go back and completely change the film? No, the simple answer is Amsterdam is an example of how a director is a borderline between a product being good or bad. 

It is not entirely awful, however. Amsterdam does supply a few positives in its wave of negativity. For starters, the soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton is delightful. He channels a perfect light-hearted tone that fits the majority of the ensemble while still feeling meek and mysterious, which links with the film’s atmosphere. 

Additionally, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is, at some points, stunning. The film’s palette consists of an emphasis on the colors green, orange, and yellow, and these colors are at the forefront of Amsterdam’s camera. It’s an extremely pleasant-looking film and reaffirms the notion that on a technological level, the movie is quite a knockout. 

There is a clear vision reserved for these characters as well. From the main ensemble, it feels like every person has some sort of unique trait to latch onto. Watching the film can be a considerable treat for those who enjoy originality. I will say this about O. Russell, he is good at differentiating characters and allowing them their own room to express themselves and their uniqueness. 

“Love is not enough. You got to fight to protect kindness. You get attached to people and things. And they might just break your heart… but that’s being alive.” -Burt Berendsen

However, when it comes time to listen to what these characters have to say, everything begins to crumble. O. Russell may have had a good outline, but when it came to putting those notes onto a script, he seemed to have forgotten what makes these characters interesting in the first place. 

It becomes clear by the end of the film’s prologue that all of these characters speak in the same dialect. Visually, they’re distinct, but verbally they feel interchangeable. They no longer maintain a sense of uniqueness, which for a film that is grabbing influence from several places, uniqueness should be the peak priority.

Russell’s direction is entirely to blame for this, in my opinion. Though he has talent directing the technical aspects of the film, the performances completely blunders. I was particularly disappointed with John David Washington’s performance, which I thought was completely lifeless. There are pivotal scenes in which some emotion is a necessity and David Washington simply could not carry the weight.

The same applies to some of Hollywood’s most famous alumni. When every character acts the same, the room for expression shrinks. So for actors like Robert De Niro and Mike Myers who should be giving extremely varied and distinguished performances, they unfortunately begin to blend in with everyone else. I think for a film that establishes such a strong ensemble there must be some way to allow each actor to showcase their abilities. 

There comes a point with Amsterdam’s twists and turns where everything just feels lifeless. These conveniences and victories don’t feel earned by these characters, and the ultimatum feels entirely bloated and rushed. 

To dive into these inconsistencies without spoilers would be difficult, so to put it simply: Amsterdam is a mystery film. Mystery films, in my opinion, typically should follow a structure akin to an upward slope. The further the plot progresses, the more questions and conundrums are introduced until ultimately climaxing with the answers revealed. Amsterdam’s structure feels like a stagnant line with occasional bumps throughout the journey. The several detours aren’t nearly interesting enough to engage with, but the core mystery of it all is also weak enough to where the climax feels unfulfilling. 

Liz Meekins, as portrayed by Taylor Swift

The biggest heartbreak is the ending because it reaffirms how promising Amsterdam truly was. I will reiterate no spoilers, but the final 10 shots of the film are beautiful. It tricks the mind of the viewer into believing what they watched was something more than an unfiltered mess. It made viewing Amsterdam its own mystery because afterward, I was wondering what exactly went wrong. The final shot is such a beautiful display of the film’s themes and yet everything else is a travesty. 

To say it bluntly, once again, Amsterdam is a disappointment. Not because it is a horrible movie but because there’s so much potential and yet every promise Amsterdam makes is not fulfilled. It is a nice-looking film, a wonderful sounding film, but it fails at what it strives to achieve: It is not a sound film. 



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