Film Review: Amsterdam. A Confusing Historical Drama.


Last week saw the release of the historical drama Amsterdam. The film was distributed by 20th Century Studios under Disney and was helmed by academy nominated writer/director David O. Russell (Known for Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees and American Hustle).

The film contains a star studded cast of a-listers like Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Anya-Taylor Joy, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro and many more. Quite the cast.

The film is a historical drama centered around the 1933 “Business Plot” conspiracy theory where it was believed a number of businessmen attempted to overthrow President Roosevelt in a coup lead by military veterans, not unlike how Mussolini or Hitler took power in Europe.

So with this many great actors and a renowned writer/director this film has to be a masterpiece right? Well… Let’s just say it was definitely something.


The film begins with Burt Berendenson (Christian Bale), a WWI veteran who became a doctor helping other veterans. He is best friends with Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), a lawyer. The two are hired by Elizabeth Menkins (Taylor Swift) to find out how her father, Bill Minkins died. They discover that he may have been poisoned, and upon finding Elizabeth to tell her she is killed and the two are framed for her murder.

Burt seeks the help of his wife (which the two have been separated) to help clear their name. They remember Elizabeth saying the name “Voze”, a wealthy family known in the upper class world. Burt and Harold go to visit Tom Voze (Rami Malek) and discover that their old friend Valerie (Margot Robbie) is his sister. Valerie was a nurse they met in Europe to helped them in the hospital in Amsterdam. The three became close friends and formed a pact. They haven’t seen her in over a decade.

After meeting Tom he tells them they should meet with General Gill Dillinbeck (Robert De Niro) (Based on real life General Smedley Butler) to help clear their name. When Valerie and Harold spend some time together they come across Elizabeth’s assailant and follow him. They discover a sterilization center with equipment that has strange symbols on them. They meet back up with Burt and bring him to a location where they meet up with Paul (Mike Myers) and Henry (Michael Shannon), two government agents who had previously helped Burt and Harold when they needed cosmetic surgery years earlier.

They believe a cabal inspired by recent European activity is trying to take over the U.S. government and that Bill Menkins knew and was killed for it. In a way to try and lure out these individuals they go to General Gill Dillinbeck and convince him to speak at an upcoming veterans gala organized by Burt.

At the gala they meet some of the conspirators and find out that Tom was a member as well and ordered both Bill and Elizabeth’s deaths. When an assassin tried to murder Gill, Harold and Valerie stop him. Tom is arrested and our three main characters celebrate their triumph. Harold and Valerie agree to leave America while Burt stays behind and falls in love with a fellow medical examiner Irma (Zoe Saldana).


While the film is beautifully shot and has a great amount of star power behind it the film felt very confused in how it wanted to tell its story. Throughout the film we cut back to past events out of order and Christian Bale’s character narrated certain portions of the film while other times it’s silent.

The film’s length doesn’t help either being 134 minutes with very little action and a lot of going from one place to the next and talking. While the story is there the execution feels very unfocused and conflicts with itself on how it tells its story.

Overall Rating: 4/10

The film is a chore to get through. Despite being a little over 2 hours it felt like it was nearly 3 hours. The acting can be very good in certain scenes while in others it feels very fake. Not to mention certain political commentary can possibly rub some people the wrong way. Despite being a fictionalized version of real events some may call this “changing history”, even though it’s clearly fiction.

If you like WWII political dramas you may like this. But for a general audience it’s a boring and confusing mess.

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