Genre: Dramatic Comedy and Mystery Running Time: 2 hrs. 14 min.
Release Date: October 7th, 2022 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David O. Russell Actors: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy, Andrea Riseborough, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Alessandro Nivola, Matthias Schoenaerts
hen General Bill Meekins (Ed Begley, Jr.) assigns doctor Bertram “Burt” Berendsen (Christian Bale) to lead Harold Woodsman’s (John David Washington) military unit, the two quickly become friends, making a promise to keep each other safe. Their pact soon extends to a third person, Valerie (Margot Robbie), an eccentric nurse who cares for the veterans after they’re wounded in battle. The trio become inseparable, dancing away the days in a blissful post-WWI Amsterdam, but their carefree lifestyle can’t last forever; despite much pleading from Valerie, Burt must eventually return to America in an attempt to reconnect with his wife Beatrice (Andrea Riseborough).
Not long after, Burt falls on hard times and ends up in prison, causing a further rift in the trio’s relationship as Valerie must contact powerful people from her past to bail him out. She then vanishes, leaving Harold to also return to New York. Years later, Burt runs a modest facial prosthetics clinic in the city, while Harold has become a prominent attorney. When Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift) suddenly contacts Harold, requesting he investigate the death of her father, the lawyer enlists Burt to perform the autopsy of their revered leader. What they uncover is a murder mystery for which they’re the prime suspects – with links to a monumental conspiracy to overthrow the balance of power in the country.
With it’s utterly tremendous ensemble cast, new characters pop up every few seconds, each tasked with appearing more whimsical, wry, and idiosyncratic than the last. Fortunately, Bale winds up being the most erratic of the bunch, as if the leader of a gathering of cartoon characters. Playful, old-fashioned music and extreme camera angles add to the visual and behavioral strangeness, wherein everyone is suspicious and surely contributes to the unguessable nature of the murder mystery. “It’s dangerous!”
Problematically, however, the picture soon jumps around in the timeline (a wholly unnecessary fiddling), while multiple narrators complicate the “Forrest Gump” vibes of war sequences blended with humor. Despite the horrors of armed conflict, as well as dourer notes on racism and domineering political powers, the airy, spirited manner of the majority of personas imparts insincerity; it’s difficult to remain concerned for the heroes when myriad predicaments are so doused in levity. It also doesn’t help that the plot progresses as if devised randomly – like the improvised nonsense song sung by the leads to cheer themselves up.
In an unnaturally quirky way, the roles engage in slapstick, display physical tics, and harbor plenty of unrealistic eccentricities, as if adopting a Wes Anderson flavor (“See How They Run” recently did much of this to far greater effect), letting the mystery unfold with so many dalliances, deviances, and diversions that it can’t help but to feel meandering. Solving the case doesn’t seem to be a priority as the film dwells on peculiar details. For a project that has so much stuff going on simultaneously, “Amsterdam” manages to feel as if perpetually bordering on uneventful. “I’m still not certain. What do you mean?”
“Lots of things overlap!” This is by far writer/director David O. Russell’s most disorganized piece, zipping all over the place to accomplish virtually nothing by the end (a conclusion with practically no resolutions, despite claiming to be loosely based on real events). There are countless locations, people, motives, updates, and curious reiterations (most humorously the thinly veiled commentary on ornithological occurrences), yet none of them provoke the type of standard engagement expected of a whodunit. It all drags on until no one will care who’s behind it all; even with periodically funny interactions and dialogue, a few of which lead to answers (ones that are insultingly repeated at the close for audiences too distracted to follow the very elements visualized onscreen), the result is a bore. It’s all so convoluted and slow, save for the various love stories that have little to do with the main conspiracy, yet are entirely more moving; Russell is clearly combining two disparate tales together, interweaving historical intrigue and corruption with a casual, dreamlike bohemian affair in the fairy-tale environs of the Netherlands. “Somebody’s trying to do something dark and treacherous!”
– The Massie Twins