It’s been a few years since controversial writer/director David O. Russell has had a movie out in cinemas. After lots of dirty laundry aired in public about his notorious behaviour towards actors and crew members on-set, the sometimes-volatile O. Russell is clearly someone who takes his art seriously – for better or worse. His new movie, which he both wrote and helmed, boasts ‘that a lot of what you see onscreen actually happened in real life’. ‘Amsterdam’ has a fascinating story to tell – one that’s involving, intriguing and at times even humorous, but it’s also (sadly) quite relevant in modern times today too, despite being set in 1933. The end result is a star-studded affair that is a very engaging watch with a brilliant final act.
The plot involves two First World War veterans – Dr. Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) and Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), a lawyer. They both met as younger men during the war and formed a strong friendship that has endured over the years. During a particularly bloody battle, both men were sent to recuperate in hospital, where they met Nurse Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie). A bond develops into an unbreakable friendship for the trio, as they spend some of the happiest times of their lives in Amsterdam. But life soon gets in the way.
Years pass, and having now relocated back to America, Burt and Harold find themselves reunited once again to investigate the untimely death of their commanding officer General Bill Meekins (Ed Begley Jr.). Foul play is definitely on the cards, and as they uncover the truth behind his murder, it unravels a far bigger conspiracy that not only threatens their lives but could also bring an end to the very fabric of the nation.
‘Amsterdam’ is full of unbelievable talent. Its an incredible ensemble that carries you through an over-long middle section, and always keeps you fully entertained. Leading the way is the triple- header leading cast of Margot Robbie, Christian Bale and John David Washington. Washington has firmly followed in his father’s footsteps (Denzel) and has become one of Hollywood’s finest leading men. Robbie continues to amaze with every eclectic step she takes in her stellar career and is simply sensational in ‘Amsterdam’. And what can we say about Christian Bale that hasn’t already been said? ‘Amsterdam’ affords Bale yet another wildly different role to inhabit, which he does a marvellous job with.
The strength of the film comes from its central friendship between the characters of Voze, Berendsen and Woodsman. It seems like a rare thing these days to revel in a well-written and engaging friendship between three people onscreen, but ‘Amsterdam’ does a great job in making this a relationship that you can easily champion and fully engage with. Their chemistry is brilliant and makes you wish that there were more stories to tell with all three characters involved.
On that subject, the ensemble is full of quirky and well-rounded characters that you feel could hold a movie by themselves too. This is certainly the case with Michael Shannon and Mike Myers. As Henry Norcross and Paul Canterbury respectively, they play a highly entertaining cameo as a pair of secret service agents who help with the case at hand. Myers, in particular, is a joy to watch – reminding us that he’s been absent from the big screen for far too long. Elsewhere, there are noticeable strong supporting turns from the likes of Chris Rock, Ed Begley Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matthias Schoenaerts, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek and Robert De Niro. Taylor Swift is great in her small cameo too, and shares a good scene with Bale and Washington.
‘Amsterdam’ is a joy to watch. It starts off strongly, but despite dragging slightly in the middle third, it more than makes up for this with a barnstorming finale that utilises all of the talent at its disposal. The trailer suggests that Robert De Niro only has a small part to play, but he’s in the film a lot more than I expected and holds a very pivotal role. It’s his best work for some time and helps make ‘Amsterdam’ a thoroughly engaging cinema experience. It’s also very refreshing to get a dramatic story told on the big screen that isn’t tied to a franchise or a sequel – just a good, old-fashioned movie’s movie. ‘Amsterdam’ is a wonderful caper packed full of star-power, fantastic performances and a compelling story with timely themes that still resonate, even in today’s world. This is well worth your time and money.
Cast: Margot Robbie, Christian Bale, John David Washington, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Chris Rock, Ed Begley Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matthias Schoenaerts, Taylor Swift, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro Director: David O. Russell Writer: David O. Russell Certificate: 15 Duration: 134 mins Released by: 20th Century Fox Release date: 7th October 2022