Review: Amistad

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Amistad opened on Christmas Day in 1997. The film starred Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins. It was directed by Steven Spielberg


Slaves aboard the ship, Amistad, orchestrate an escape from their chains and kill some of the traders that captured them. The slaves are later arrested and taken to America where they are put on trial for murder and being runaway slaves. They seem certain to face death, but an abolitionist lawyer takes their case and tries to prove they were citizens of another country and not slaves.


  • Like he did with Schindler’s List, Spielberg does a great job of showing the terror of the subject matter. The scenes that focus on slavery are brutal and capture the horror that comes with being a slave.
  • Djimon Hounsou gives a tremendous performance in the film. He does an excellent job of balancing the strength of his character with the soul taking nature of being a slave.


  • The slavery scenes are powerful, but the story involving the court case is tedious. The film loses its gravitas when it becomes a procedural drama.
  • Amistad goes on for longer than it should. There is a lot of filler that could of easily been edited.
  • Matthew McConaughey & Morgan Freeman are misused in the film. Their characters serve little purpose and sadly their talents are wasted.

In Closing:

Amistad is at its best when it focuses on the story of slavery. It becomes boring when the courtroom drama takes over. Hounsou is terrific in the film, while the rest of the cast isn’t given much to do. Amistad was an admirable attempt by Spielberg, but sadly it falls short of its potential.

Rating: C