Posted February 9, 2007on:
Though I am not really a big Spielberg fan the first moment of “Amistad” had me absolutely enraptured. A face barely visible in pitch black contorted in a grimace of utter concentration – every muscle of this face tense and taut. Streams of sweat mixed with water running down the contours of the face which is lit up with every flash of ominous lightning in the background. It is a face of a man immersed in his task with every cell of his being – to pry out a nail from its encasing wood with his bare hands. A face expressing utter desperation – of a man whose last hope is to accomplish the task at hand. The last reservoirs of the life force of this man have been put into this task – saving none.
Those who have slouched on their seats will sit up straight, hold their breaths and their eyes will widen ever so little.
But to me the movie had little else to offer. The rest is fraught with stereotypes and cheap emotional manipulation which Spielberg is so often guilty of.
The following are a few examples:-
A noble African with exceptional fortitude and indomitable spirit (not to speak of chiseled physique) who rises against the inhumanity and savagery of slavery – and whose upbringing in an African tribal village poses no difficulties in him understanding the American judicial system and devising legal strategies. He also displays an exceptional panache for English oratory as he gives us audiences an overwhelming goose bumpish moment in the middle of drab court proceedings on a hot summer afternoon with his “givsa uso FREEDSOO” “GIVSAY USUM FREEDAM!!!!!!”
A “cool and cocky” lawyer who professes practicality – “the heart of this matter is that these slaves are livestock and not goods and therefore XYZ law is not applicable to them” “righteousness???? whazza??” but really has a heart of gold and cares for the slaves (sniff). He knows the the Africans understand not a word of his yankee arguments but that doesnt stop him from doling them out still – and annoyingly so.
An African American who appears out of nowhere and conveniently knows swahili as well as english – and finally starts translating the “mamboto fatanka tabeeto!!” tavata nankaboo meenedo???” “MAMUBOOTO TAKAFOOTI!!!!!!!!?????”s for us.
A “noble and wise” and yet “cocky and cold” ex-president of classical Anthony Hopkins tradition who in signature cocky style refuses to take up the cause of the slaves but is ultimately moved by the plight of these slaves and changes his mind and post haste delivers a glorious speech (insipid for me) and gets the slaves their freedom.
A perpetually clueless and impotent President with a huge question mark drawn large on his face with his “I can?????” “They are????” which are aptly responded to with an “how dumb can you get???” expression from his “smart but corrupt” advisor.
All this is tempered by glorious orchestra music to manipulate us emotional fools audiences at every possible excuse in the movie.