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Amistad 1997

  • Steven Spielberg
  • December 3, 1997
  • 155 mins
  • English
  • Drama, History, Mystery
Freedom is not given. It is our right at birth. But there are some moments when it must be taken.
In 1839, the slave ship Amistad set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque leads the slaves in an unprecedented uprising. They are then held prisoner in Connecticut, and their release becomes the subject of heated debate. Freed slave Theodore Joadson wants Cinque and the others exonerated and recruits property lawyer Roger Baldwin to help his case. Eventually, John Quincy Adams also becomes an ally.


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Amistad lacks the detachment and rawness that made Schindler's List so powerful, but demonstrates Spielberg's ability as a masterful cinematic storyteller. It may occasionally feel manipulative in trying to wring emotions out of the audience, but Spielberg's gift is being able to do this and still leave a viewer utterly engrossed and emotionally involved in the story. He is helped here by a mesmerising performance by Hounsou - he is absolutely riveting in this film from the opening shot. The sequences aboard the slave ships standout as necessarily brutal and horrific moments that really can only capture a snapshot of the suffering so many people went through as a result of slavery, and here there is greater effort by Spielberg to let the images speak for themselves. The rest of the film struggles to match these moments but a great cast lead the audience through the court case that is intriguing throughout both in its impact on the central characters as well as it's wider historical significance.

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