Review: Amistad (1997)

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: David H. Franzoni
Director of Photography: Janusz Kaminski
Editor: Michael Kahn
Music: John Williams
Production Designer: Rick Carter
Producers: Debbie Allen, Steven Spielberg and Colin Wilson
DreamWorks SKG; R; 152 minutes
Release: 12/97
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Stellan Skarsgård, Matthew McConaughey, Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, David Paymer and Pete Postlethwaite

Though it's also a must-see, Amistad doesn't seem as compelling or immediate as Schindler's List. While Schindler tackled the Holocaust from an emotional and historical point of view, Amistad takes a pedantic approach that doesn't fully explore the psychological side of the atrocity. In 1839, 53 Africans aboard a Spanish slave ship, La Amistad, break free of their shackles and revolt against their captors. They fail in their desperate attempt to sail back to Africa and end up in America charged with murder and piracy. With the help of abolitionists Joadson (Freeman) and Tappan (Skarsgård) and real estate attorney Baldwin (McConaughey), they begin an arduous journey through the American legal system. Cinque (Hounsou), the unwilling leader of the Africans, becomes the spokesman for the group, retelling the story of the Africans to Baldwin and later to former President John Quincy Adams (Hopkins), who argues for the Africans in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Hounsou turns in a haunting performance as Cinque, and Anthony Hopkins is in peak form as Adams.

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