Released October 7e
The opening screen of “Amsterdam” displays the message: “A lot really happened.” If you don’t know the actual story, sit back and enjoy the story and don’t worry. There’s a lot to enjoy here – a stellar cast playing vivacious and quirky characters with intricate relationships, comedy and intrigue, richly detailed period sets by production designer Judy Becker, and wonderful camerawork by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, who filmed The Revenant, Birdman and Gravity. The style reflects a 1940s black comedy spy thriller.
Now, for you to understand this story that inspired the story, it is loosely based on an actual 1933 coup by a group of wealthy businessmen to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a fascist government. Their plan was to recruit veterans unhappy with the time they had to wait for the promised bonuses. This stunt was called the Business Plot – you can research it. Robert Di Niro’s role is based on an actual general involved in this plot, Major General Smedley D. Butler.
David O. Russell, who wrote and directed the film, develops its plot in a different direction than the historic coup, relying more on the goofy and colorful characters he created. The plot doesn’t come full circle until the end of the film. The story is very entertaining though, and the idea of a group of angry powerful executives plotting to destroy the US government isn’t as far-fetched as it would have been ten years ago. Russell’s story also “sees” the African American soldiers who fought in our armed forces, who have long been overlooked in the history books.
It’s a modern-day fairy tale, a story where the characters represent us all and our place in history, and it subliminally asks the question: “Are we doomed to repeat the evil events of history? again and again ? The ideas and actions of these characters of the early 20e Century will look oddly familiar to us, as they appear to have been cloned in the early 21st Century. The script attracted Robert Di Niro to play the role of “”General Dillenbeck” because “I never really thought as a young man that things like the Holocaust, World War II, Hitler, Nazism all that, I thought was a nightmare it would never be repeated – never… We all know that history repeats itself, and it is the one that is repeating itself now politically.
“Amsterdam” is not just a wacky game or mystery. It’s fun to watch but it’s serious, an allegory of modern history. It’s a feast for the eyes, colorful and incredibly detailed sets, a tapestry of period history. Russell has formed an ensemble that has the most expressive eyes in the industry, and the camera work brings them to life – the eyes play a major role in expressing much of the emotion, and an eye actually plays an important role in a subplot. Perhaps Russell wants us to “see” our world with more insight.
Russell and his actors and filmmakers warned us not to accept the will of powerful people who would give the world a makeover in their idealized image. It is not, as described, a detective comedy, it is a historical/political allegory.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a talent manager at Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. [email protected]