What’s Going on with “Amsterdam”?


Maylin Knoblich, Opinion Writer

A common activity when out with friends is seeing a movie. A trip to the movie theatre is one of the oldest forms of entertainment in modern times. I recently went out and saw a movie that I had not (up to that point) heard of. I didn’t see any trailer, billboard, or advertisement for this movie. We walked into the theater, looked at a list of movies, chose one, and watched it.

Picture this: It’s opening weekend, and this movie has been shown only one other time prior to this showing. We enter an empty theater with one woman sitting at the edge nearest to the aisle. That was it. This theater was the embodiment of emptiness. This did not bring the most comfort to my mind on what we had gotten ourselves into.

That feeling pretty much stuck with us throughout the entire movie. What had we gotten ourselves into?

Amsterdam, at its core, was a masterpiece in the making; great cast, good portrayable messages, and a director who had some excellent hits such as “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Fighter,” and “The Hustler.” But sadly, even with everything the movie had going for it, it seems to have been sold short.

Amsterdam stars big names include: Christian Bale, John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Zoe Saldana, Alessandro Nivola, Taylor Swift, and more. This cast could do wonders, and yet the movie, after it is over, leaves you feeling like you watched greatness do nothing for 2 hours.

The movie starts in 1933 and quickly introduces some main characters. A crazy doctor named Dr. Burt Berendsen (played by Christian Bale) helps people recover from the Great War (WWI) using a medicine he developed, which he is also addicted to. Then, they introduce Harold Woodsman (played by John David Washington), a lawyer that, accompanied by Dr. Berendsen, solves law cases.

In the most straightforward way, the movie’s plot revolves around a veteran doctor and his veteran lawyer friend who was hired to solve a crime. During the investigation, they were falsely accused of murder. They then went on an adventure to clear their name, stumbling across a larger plot to dissemble the government in favor of a dictatorship like Germany and Italy. Surprisingly, this movie is partly fact and partly fiction.

While this plot unfolds, the story jumps from 1933 back to 1918, then switches settings between New York to France, then Amsterdam, then back to New York. The switch is so sudden and sometimes unexplained that it leaves the viewer lost and confused.

There were subplots brought up and focused on for a while that would then be forgotten and never discussed until the end. These subplots were lackluster or too full that they felt overdone. Also, many instances of foreshadowing were never addressed or explained.

Some of these subplots include the M16 agents that double as glass eye crafters, but at the same time, they have a continued running gag that they are also bird watchers. This theme of being a bird watcher is mentioned many times by not only the undercover agents but also by other characters such as Tom Vose.

Some parts were enjoyable, that not all movies can pull off. Like when the movie pauses and the titles explain who that character is, then appear over the top of the character; This completely contradicts what they just said about themselves. This short sequence pays off so well in the comedic relief of the confusion that it feels like a worthwhile movie to watch. 

I personally enjoyed this movie. Although this movie, a lot of the time, was dialogue that lasted way too long, the constant craziness, jump cuts, and wacky hijinks kept me interested in what was going to happen next. 

The story was not explained until the very end, but for me when they explained the story, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was so enthused when the movie explained everything I was confused about. It just gave me an “Oh, so that’s what that was” moment but for everything that happened in the movie. It had many amusing moments that kept me laughing much longer than the scene lasted.

Sadly, a movie with one and a half stars on rotten tomatoes can’t be amazing, but I believe before anyone judges this movie, they should give it a chance and watch it. It may be boring to some and confusing, but that’s alright because the comedic relief from the drama-filled story is worth the confusion.