Title: Amsterdam (2022)
Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell
Stars: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldana, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Timothy Oliphant, Taylor Swift, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro
What do a one-eyed doctor, an artistic nurse and a black lawyer have in common? Trouble! In the 1930s, after the ravages of The Great War, a bond of friendship is forged between the wounded soldiers Burt and Harold and their peppy nurse Valerie. The trio leaves the horrors of war behind and goes to Amsterdam, where they live happily for a while.
The main story in Amsterdam takes place in New York almost 15 years after the three friends leave Amsterdam. The two ex-soldiers are still sticking together: Burt Berendsen (played by Christian Bale) is now married and working as a medical doctor, and Harold Woodman (played by John David Washington) has become an attorney. Together they help war veterans through medicine, legal representation, and charity work. When Liz Meekins (played by Taylor Swift), the daughter of the general they served under, hires them to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding her father’s death, everything gets turned upside down for the two veterans.
Amsterdam tries to be part historical period drama (with roots in reality), part comedy and political satire, yet feels more like a mishmash that’s neither fish nor fowl. Written and directed by David O. Russell, this movie plays fast and loose with the storytelling and plot, something that worked out for Russell in American Hustle but fails to hit the mark this time. Amsterdam presents us with an astonishing array of famous, talented actors and a decent premise, but is it enough to make it a good movie?
Burt and Harold’s findings show the general didn’t die from natural causes. Trying to find Liz to tell her the bad news, they end up framed for her murder and must escape to clear their names. They must seek someone of influence and power to vouch for them (through Burt’s estranged wife’s high society connections), as the police are hot on their heels. Through the process, Burt and Harold are unexpectedly reunited with the nurse that saved them back in the day, Valerie Voze (played by Margot Robbie). The happiness of their reunion is short-lived as the three friends uncover a hidden plot, a conspiracy to overthrow the US government. But what nefarious group could be behind such a plan? What does it all mean?
Amsterdam is a visually beautiful movie, full of great cinematographic shots with a great overall aesthetic. I’d say one of the strongest points of Amsterdam is Christian Bale’s performance as Dr. Berendsen. Mike Myers and Michael Shannon as weird, birdwatching British spies are somewhat amusing, as is Robert De Niro as the retired General Dillenbeck.
Although I enjoy seeing Anya Taylor-Joy in almost anything, I’m afraid it is not enough. To the trio, their time in Amsterdam is a cherished memory, a state of mind they wish they could go back to. Amsterdam is a state of mind, alright: one of chaos and confusion. I’m usually quite good at keeping track of various timelines, plot twists, characters, and places; despite this, I often found myself thinking, “What in the seven hells am I watching?” while watching this movie. The storytelling is messy and convoluted, the pace continually stumbling forward when it probably should have slowed down and gone more in-depth.
If you’re a fan of historical dramas or enjoy rambling comedy movies, I guess you could find some entertaining moments in Amsterdam. Despite a stellar cast of A-list Hollywood actors and a somewhat decent plot, the movie falls short of what it could have been.
Although most of the components that make up a good movie are present in Amsterdam, the movie somehow turns out to be less than the sum of its parts.