David Russell has had a handful of films in his career where he tends to work with the same actors over and over again. He does that once again in Amsterdam. Christian Bale and Robert Deniro feature prominently in the film, but he has a whole new cast of actors he’s never worked with before in this movie. This might be one of the most stacked casts I’ve seen in a film in recent memory. Whether the stellar cast will equal the film that remains to be seen.
Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale) is a doctor in New York. He gets a call from an old friend Harold Woodman (John David Washington), a lawyer. He reached out to him because the daughter, Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift) of an old military officer he was close to has passed away. She suspected foul play. So these men start to investigate his murder when inexplicably Liz is thrown into a busy New York street and gets run over by a car. This leads to the most bizarre plot imaginable.
O’Russell sets the film in-between WWI and WWII. Obviously, by the title, it not only takes place in New York City but also in Amsterdam and Belgium. Using narration Bale’s character reflects on the time he was sent overseas and how he met his two closest friends whom he formed a pact with. This relationship comes full circle when the murder mystery they are investigating turns them toward their old friend Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie) who is a little different than they remember in Europe.
As I mentioned the cast is stacked and part of that is because there are a couple of inept detectives played by Mathies Schoenearts and Alessandro Nivola. Also behind the scenes, there were two very funny characters played by Mike Myers and Michael Shannon who were ornithologists. Robert Deniro played a general who was a motivational speaker who gets wrapped up in all the minutiae of the murder plot. The weirdest characters were played by Rami Malek and Anya Taylor Joy. They are related to Robbie’s character but have a more sinister bend to their characters.
Besides directing this movie O’Russell also wrote the script. He infused it with a sense of wit rarely seen these days in modern films. The funny banter between all the characters in the movie was a breath of fresh air to me. Some films similar to this can’t capture the comedic moments this one does from beginning to end. It seemed to me these actors had been working together their entire careers; they were so familiar and had terrific rapport with one another. Specifically Bale, Washington, and Robbie. But also Myers and Shannon.
Besides the acting, direction, and writing the film has quite a bit of below-the-line categories that we’re fantastic. The cinematography by three-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki was a lived-in worn-out look. Which worked perfectly for the period. The production design was very good as well. The costumes and makeup were standouts in this movie. Without these departments, this film wouldn’t look half as good as it does. All these categories helped make this movie as authentic as it looks and feels. I was instantly sucked in as soon as the film started.
There is a controversy surrounding this production that has to do with O’Russell’s past. Despite that, this movie has got all it needed to succeed. All the pieces were in place to make a good film that is enjoyable to watch. Even though early reviews have got people concerned about how good this movie is, I’m here to say they shouldn’t be worried. Despite it being a little too long and a tad convoluted it’s actually a pretty good film. The story kept me invested all the way through. The various comedic moments from many of the cast were fantastic. I laughed quite a bit throughout the two-and-a-half-hour runtime. The acting was superb by everybody involved and the story hit a nerve I didn’t expect. Maybe for some, it’s a little too inside baseball but who cares. I can only go off of what I felt and my feelings are it’s a fun entertaining period piece with a great story behind it.
4 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen