‘Amsterdam’ – Review
Leave it to the talent and vision of David O. Russell to give audiences a thoroughly unique viewing experience with his period set mystery, comedy, thriller Amsterdam, which delivers on the narrative and brings to life a selection of oddballs and weirdos who are sure to capture the attention of audiences.
Three friends — a doctor, a nurse, and an attorney — become the prime suspects in a murder in the 1930s, and at the centre of one of the most shocking secret plots in American history
When it comes to modern cinema one of the artforms’ most intriguing and innovative voices belongs to David O. Russell. A clever and calculating writer-director, Russell has continued to hold onto his independent voice, along with finding a place to work within the studio system, and his films always offer audiences something different in relation to narrative. Now with Amsterdam, Russell returns to cinemas with his first film since 2015’s Joy, and this multi-character mystery comedy thriller is a real treat for audiences who are seeking something different and entirely quirky.
While the less that is said about Amsterdam’s plot line, the better for audiences, this is a unique set period comedy-thriller that throws in plenty of twists, turns and conspiracies and uses all of its scenery and space to its advantage. Russell takes his time with the narrative and dives intimately back and forth with his three unique lead characters, Dr Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), a doctor with a glass eye and WWI veteran, Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie), a nurse and conceptual artist, and Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), a lawyer and fellow WWI veteran who served alongside Berendsen. The extensive exploration and set-up of the film’s narrative verisimilitude are of the utmost importance to Amsterdam, and the shocking twists that reveal themself right in the middle of the picture make for one massive punch. And it’s one hell of a wallop. Mixed in is some terrific dry humour, and fans looking for a story that will keep them guessing are well rewarded with Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is a film driven by character, and Russell delivers to audiences some of the most original characters to arrive on screen. Christian Bale is an absolute scene stealer as Dr Burt Berendsen, a physician who is a little too eager to take his own medicine but who carries a massive conscience and adherence to duty. Margot Robbie is thoroughly off-the-walls as nurse turned artist Valerie Voze and she’s extremely experimental in the performance that she brings to the screen and her off-beat quirks will raise a few eyebrows. Bringing this trio together is John David Washington as the stoic and gentlemanly Harold Woodsman, who adheres to a strict code of ethics, and who cuts a very sharp figure when he appears on the screen. Bale, Robbie, and Washington feed off of each other’s performances, completely disappearing into their characters, with this marking Amsterdam out as a refreshing watch.
The supporting cast also gets top marks, and the adherence to character results in some very fun moments on screen. Rami Malek and Anya Taylor-Joy make for a great pair as married couple Tom and Libby Voze, and both get to play against type which gives each of them plenty of bewitching moments, with this especially applying to Taylor-Joy who gives a total 180-degree performance. Veteran performers Mike Myers and Michael Shannon bring their own quirkiness as complementary partners who are a real ‘odd-couple’ pairing in the best way possible. Then there’s celebrated legend Robert DeNiro who is again perfectly cast as General Gil Dillenbeck, and he brings his own special magic to the project.
There’s a lot going on throughout Amsterdam, and this is an incredibly smart, inventive and unique piece of cinema. With this film we see Russell swinging for the fences and working actively to do something different with a mix match of genres, and it makes for an intriguing watch. Audiences seeking a thoroughly intellectual cinema experience will be pleased with this film and its attention to detail and pace mark it out as something distinctive and idiosyncratic.
Amsterdam is a singular film of vision, and its craft and creation are sure to entice audiences who are curious about something a little bit different.
Image: 20th Century Studios