Amsterdam: Reviewed


David O. Russell gave audiences a film full of turns when he directed and wrote Amsterdam. Released Oct. 7, 2022, Amsterdam might have been expecting to take the screen by force, but instead did so passively. The film received numerous reviews stating that nothing was accomplished by the film and that Russell did not carry out any goal established in the trailer. 

When I went to see Amsterdam in theaters, I was amazed. The story took the viewer through several twists, maybe abruptly, but that was the point of Russell’s directing. The characters had rough histories and traumatizing pasts and these details bleed into their future. 

The three main characters, Burt Berendsen (Christian Bale), Harold Woodman (John David Washington), and Valerie Vose (Margot Robbie), meet in a hospital during the First World War. Burt and Harold are friends in the armed forces and are both injured– Burt more gravely than Harold. Valerie is a nurse at the time, and collects debris from soldiers’ wounds in order to turn it into what she called “her art”. She feels passionately about seemingly everything she does. In recovery, the three become close friends, though Harold and Valerie become more romantic as time goes on. 

After the war, the three stay in Amsterdam for a time until Burt and Harold return to the United States. The story takes several more turns until Valerie is reintroduced while Burt and Harold try to solve a murder for a certain Elizabeth Meekins (Taylor Swift), the daughter of the now deceased Bill Meekins, the commander of Burt and Harold’s regiment in the war. [Spoiler begins here] Through this, the trio discovers a fascist coup d’etat targeting Franklin D. Roosevelt. They, with the help of others, stop the plan in its tracks, and rekindle their previous friendship. Eventually, Harold and Valerie return to Amsterdam so they can live together lawfully, and Burt plans to revive his medical practices while pursuing his own romance with his medical assistant, Irma St. Clair (Zoe Saldana) [Spoiler ends here].

The film ends with the main three happy and healthy, doing what they are passionate about while also sticking to its incredible cinematic theme. Reviews from The Guardian and other well-established publishers claim that O. Russell fantastically failed with Amsterdam; either the plot was not good enough, the screen was too busy, the shots weren’t up to par, or the film as a whole left them unsatisfied. While the plot can seem overwhelming and difficult at times, O. Russell leaves no loose ends. As for the goals established in the trailers, they were, admittedly, ambitious: a world war, two different countries, two separate decades, and multiple characters that remain nearly nameless throughout the film. This is a challenge for anyone, but in the end, O. Russell wrote an amazing, compelling story, titled it Amsterdam, and brought it to life. Amsterdam sends a farewell message to viewers that leaves them with a feeling hard to describe. Amsterdam explains that through life, people may enter and exit along the way, however the people meant to stay, will. The people meant to get their karma, will. What is meant to happen, will. The film ends cohesively and beautifully, if only a little bittersweet.