Steven Spielberg’s not only known as the director of some of the most entertaining films of all time but also for some of the most thought-provoking, visceral depictions of historic events. He did it once in Empire of the Sun, then followed it up with Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, Saving Private Ryan, and of course, he tried to do the same with Amistad. The latter is one of his lesser-known films, with most people not even knowing of its existence. However, Amistad was one of the more typical depictions of historical events in the film, even at the time of its release.

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The Movie Review

In the year 1839, the waters of the Atlantic were home to a floating dungeon. A slave ship known as La Amistad, with its human cargo of kidnapped African men and women bound for a life of servitude in the New World. But fate had other plans for these slaves, as they rose up in rebellion against their cruel captors, taking over the ship and setting sail toward freedom.

La Amistad was soon intercepted by the US Navy, and the slaves were taken into custody, and charged with murder and piracy.

Thus begins a legal battle that would captivate the world. Enter the young lawyer, Roger Baldwin, who takes up the cause of the Amistad slaves. With the help of a fellow lawyer, John Quincy Adams, they struggle to secure their clients’ freedom in a hostile and prejudiced legal system.

The story of Amistad is loosely based on true events, and as such, it accurately depicts the brutality and suffering that people had to endure when they were forcefully taken from their homes and sent on a long journey from Africa to America.

The film takes viewers on a journey back in time to showcase the horrors they endured, along with an examination of the complexities of America’s legal system. It explored moral issues surrounding slavery as well, leaving viewers with a profound sense of sadness and empathy for those who suffered and died during this dark period in history.

However, the film predominantly revolves around the glorification of white saviors. Instead of depicting the brutal revolt led by Joseph Cinque and his fellow slaves, the majority of the two-and-a-half-hour runtime focuses on the chaotic aftermath of the incident within the American legal system.

White lawyers are portrayed as the saviors of the helpless Africans, reducing the significance of their struggle for freedom. In doing so, it takes away a lot more of the emotional punch it could have had and is left a mellow, courtroom drama of all things.

The film’s writing is engaging, and it sure did capture my attention. However, the legal jargon and courtroom scenes were a bit tough on the brain, along with some scenes which were way too slow. The pacing can be an issue for some viewers, as it was for me, and in many instances, the film felt drawn out, which made it a struggle to sit through some of those slower scenes with full attention.

The movie can be overly dramatic and sentimental at times too, there is so much emotion that you kinda grow numb to it by the end. Spielberg’s direction did not shine here, maybe because the script was a bit too convoluted for him to work around.

Of course, being a Steven Spielberg movie long after he had cemented himself as a titan of the industry, Amistad does boast an impressive cast. It includes Djimon Hounsou, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew McConaughey, making it an all-star cast that’s hard to resist.

Performances by the cast are strong and convincing, with Djimon Hounsou delivering a particularly powerful performance as the lead. Sir Anthony Hopkins and Matthew McConaughey also deliver solid performances as the lawyers who defend the slaves in court. Morgan Freeman could have had more of a role, but he still does well with what time he had.

The Visuals

The movie’s cinematography is visually stunning though, it transports you centuries back to the 1800s when the world was much more different. The production value was high, so the film’s camera crew had a lot to work with.

The camera work is impressive, particularly during the scenes on the slave ship, which are shot in a way that conveys the cramped and oppressive conditions of the ship. It’s a bit disappointing that the film didn’t use that more.

However, they accurately depicted the settings and costumes of the time period, so that is always a bonus.

The Music

John Williams is known for his ability to craft unforgettable and moving musical scores, and his work in Amistad is no exception.

The score is a harmonious blend of orchestral instruments that effectively complements the film’s emotional tone. Though I noticed that a lot of the time, the music swells to emotional heights that can feel contrived, detracting from the film’s raw impact.

There are moments where the score feels too manipulative, it’s as if Spielberg uses it to make you feel a certain way instead of allowing the story to speak for itself.


Unfortunately, despite its impressive cast and visually stunning cinematography, Amistad fails to live up to its potential. There are a lot of things that hold the film back, from slower pacing to a weaker script and storytelling focusing primarily on the boring parts.

Of course, Amistad is held back by its flaws, but it still manages to showcase the horrors of slavery and at least make you feel a lot of things emotionally.

Amistad is a historical drama based on the events that took place in 1839 aboard a Spanish slave ship. Download it now and see what happened.
6.5 Total Score
Amistad Review Summary

Sound & Music
  • Writing is engaging and captures attention
  • Impressive cinematography and production value, visually stunning and visceral in its depiction of the horrors of slavery
  • Impressive musical score by John Williams
  • Strong and convincing performances by an all-star cast, particularly Djimon Hounsou's powerful lead performance
  • Predominantly revolves around the glorification of white saviors, instead of showing more of the impressive feats such as the revolt
  • Pacing can be an issue, with some scenes feeling slow and drawn-out
  • Can be overly dramatic and sentimental, with the music sometimes feeling manipulative
  • Spielberg's direction is not as impressive as in his other films
User Rating: 5 (1 vote)
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Zain Bhatti

Zain Bhatti

Zain is an aspiring filmmaker who has invested thousands of hours of his life into understanding films and the way they are made. He has a passion for films, a love for cinematography, and adores a film that breaks the rules to bring something refreshing to the table!

Apart from films he also has a love for video games with immersive worlds and adores any piece of consumable media that he can analyze for countless hours.