“Amsterdam”, a draft plot against America


by David O. Russell

American film, 2 h 14

David O. Russell likes convoluted stories carried by colorful characters. After the successes of happiness therapy (2012), quirky romance between two bipolar people, andamerican bluff (2014), an unlikely alliance between hustlers and the FBI to trap mobsters, the American filmmaker remains faithful to his favorite themes, cheerfully mixing reality and fiction, human passions and thwarted destinies.

That of Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale, a little playboy) is particularly so. This doctor of Jewish origins was sent by his parents-in-law, wealthy anti-Semitic New York bourgeois, to fight in the trenches in France during the First World War. There he met black soldiers, forced to wear the French uniform because their compatriots refused to serve alongside them.

Having become inseparable with one of them, Harold Woodman (John David Washington, while restrained), after serious war wounds, the two friends come to the aid of all the broken faces who cross their paths by offering them legal aid, more or less experimental prostheses and analgesics… Investigating the death, in troubled circumstances, of a general philanthropist of their acquaintance, they plunge headlong into a murky affair.

Talkative and demonstrative

Extremely rich and complex, the plot ofamsterdam is intertwined with flashbacks to the past of the two heroes, returning to the enchanted parenthesis they experienced during the Roaring Twenties, in the Dutch metropolis, with Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie, inhabited by her role), a nurse who also heals war trauma through art.

As always with David O. Russell, the film overflows with poetic dialogues, theatrical scenes and fantasies of interpretation. Served by a five-star cast, enhanced by renowned supporting roles (Robert De Niro, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy, among others), the show, although talkative and demonstrative, ends up finding its rhythm thanks to its tasty characters and a luxurious reconstruction.

It is in its last act, laborious and repetitive, that this feature film loses the viewer. Seeking to tell the incredible (but true) story of an aborted putsch against Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930s, the filmmaker insists heavily on the burning and disturbing topicality of this historical fact. It is not far from the Capitol to the Tarpeian rock, David O. Russell seems to tell us, anxious to elevate his film to the rank of works committed to the defense of democracy. Disappointment matches ambition.


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