[Home] [Contents] [Amistad I] [Amistad II] [Forum] [LII]

Michael Dare's review of Amistad (1997)

Reprinted with permission of author from
        Amistad is a masterpiece that will shake your foundations.
Since he's Jewish, it was easy to understand how Steven Spielberg
could have found the emotional power he displayed in Schindler's List.
But he's definitely not black. Amistad shows that the depth of his
talent and perception knows no bounds. It does everything for the
black experience that Schindler's List did for the Jews, and with just
as much passion. He understands the power of pain that crosses all
boundaries. It's a film about integrity and the inescapable power and
attraction of freedom. It's classic cinema that takes risks, full of
the type of graphic realism Spielberg has always avoided. For the
first time, he doesn't blink at violence, but forces you to confront
your darkest fears about man's inhumanity.
        It's an epic about the slave trade, and I admit I expected the
film to start in Africa with the rounding up of the slaves, but it
starts on the ship. Halfway through the film, there's a flashback that
is the single most harrowing and intense scene I have ever witnessed.
For ten minutes tears poured down my face while watching the graphic
truth of the slave ships. It's so powerful it's almost unbearable. I
can't believe people were ever treated like this. Schindler's List was
just practice for Amistad. With this film, Spielberg becomes not only
America's premiere filmmaker but our premiere educator. I can't
believe I wasn't taught about this in school. This is the incident
that made the civil war inevitable. It resonates with compassion, full
of brilliant performances, an amazing score, and incredible writing.
Spielberg is at the absolute peak of his powers. Don't miss it.
Michael Dare

Member, Los Angeles Film Critics Association