A good (but hard to follow) period comedy thriller
Some movie goers don’t need to know what a movie is about to attend a cinema. This is what might happen to David O. Russell’s new film Amsterdam, because the director of Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013) has put together an all-star cast: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Michael Shannon, Zoe Saldana, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock and Mike Myers. We stop here, but the list is longer and expecting the best of the best is inevitable.
The film debuted in the Grand Public section of the Rome Film Fest and the project of the American director is ambitious: mixing history, thriller and comedy, bringing out something credible. Set between 1918 and 1933, Amsterdam is based on the alleged US political conspiracy known as the Business Plot, and tells the story of three friends, a doctor, a nurse and a lawyer, suspected of murder.
Premise: in 1918, Burt Berendsen (Bale), a doctor who is on the outs with his wife, is pushed by his wealthy in-laws to fight in World War I, to give their family prestige. While stationed in France, Burt meets Harold Woodsman (Washington): after sustaining injuries in battle, the two are treated by Valerie Voze (Robbie), an eccentric nurse who collects the shrapnel removed from the soldiers and transforms them into works of art. The three move to Amsterdam and become inseparable, until Burt decides to return to New York to win back his wife. Meanwhile, Harold and Valerie became a couple, but Harold decides to follow his friend and his aspirations to become a lawyer, promising Valerie to come back for her. Fifteen years later, Burt is the owner of a talked-about medical office for veterans, and Harold has truly become a lawyer they are still friends. Harold asks Burt to perform an autopsy in secret: the request comes from Liz, the daughter of Bill Meekins, the commander of their regiment during the war. The man died under mysterious circumstances and Liz believes he was killed. The autopsy confirms a poisoning and the sudden death of Meekins’ daughter, makes Harold and Burt the first suspects in the murder. After a series of events the friends will get back in touch with Valerie, unexpectedly involved in the events.
Amsterdam is the story which is revealed to the audience little by little, but the visuals often prevail over the plot, which is an intricate puzzle for the general public to keep up with. However, it is hard to write a bad review of a film like this, both for the performance of the cast and the attention paid to details: from the production design, to make-up and costumes. Russell’s pastiche is effective in some funny moments and mystery scenes, but not in a consistent way, since its 134 minutes don’t run that fast. However, the film gets better in the finale with an intense and poetic sequence.
Following its US debut, Amsterdam hits Italian theaters on October 27, 2022, distributed by 20th Century Studios.