Amsterdam (2022): David O. Russell’s Latest Fast-Paced, Star-Filled, Forgettable Time

“Amsterdam” is directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Ford v. Ferrari), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet), Chris Rock (Madagascar, Grown Ups), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), Zoe SaldaƱa (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mike Myers (Shrek, Bohemian Rhapsody), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Mandalorian), Andrea Riseborough (Bloodline, Battle of the Sexes), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, Cats), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Selma), Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, The Little Things), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents). This film is mainly set in the 1930s, and centers around three people who are framed for murder. Together, this trio uncovers a plot that will change the course of history.

I have not seen all of David O. Russell’s films. I have seen “American Hustle,” which I was not a fan of. I have mostly forgotten it by now. I saw “Joy,” which I thought was cute. The acting was great, especially on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, but it was not my favorite movie of the year. I also saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which, while not one of my favorite movies ever, is probably the best attempt at a feature Russell has ever given. I still have yet to see films like “Flirting with Disaster,” “Three Kings,” and “I Heart Huckabees.” I am mostly familiar with David O. Russell’s recent work. That said, he has built quite a name for himself as a filmmaker and it is no surprise that names like the ones listed happen to be working with him.

When you have this many Academy Award-nominated or winning actors and actresses in your film, it builds promise. It builds interest. It reminded me of when I saw “The Circle” back in 2017. You had all these culturally relevant or critically acclaimed performers like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Given their resumes, I was excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts could not escape them from this misfire. “Amsterdam,” while definitely more satisfying than “The Circle,” is in the same boat.

The best way I can describe “Amsterdam” is to say that the film is all over the place. There is a lot that goes down in just a span of two hours that I felt like I had to take some notes. The film is not wholly incompetent by any means, but it begs me to keep up with its quick pacing. I like quick pacing, but at times, the movie goes too quick. There are a lot of characters and interwoven storylines that there is a good chance that I will have forgotten a couple of them by the next couple weeks. I think this is a film that could warrant a second viewing, but I am not sure yet if it has the replay value. At times, the pacing of this movie reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I know some people like, but for whatever reason I just could not get into. One moment we’re here, one moment we’re there, and in the next my brain, which has escaped from my body, might as well have traveled to the end of the universe.

If there is any saving grace in “Amsterdam,” it would have to be Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze. I thought she had the best moments in the movie. I thought the casting matched the character and the way she was written and directed. This performance solidifies Robbie as one of my favorite actors working today. Her chemistry with Christian Bale and John David Washington is solid, and as much effort as those two put into their performances, Robbie feels like the clear winner here.

Speaking of Christian Bale, if you want me to be completely honest, I think he had a more memorable performance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” of all things. I am not saying that Christian Bale gave a terrible performance in “Amsterdam.” If anything, it was stellar. But I think when combining acting with overall characterization, Bale’s attempt at playing Gorr the God Butcher was somehow more convincing and compelling despite a movie like “Amsterdam” appearing to be more along the lines of Bale’s forte.

It is crystal clear that the story of “Amsterdam” is not the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, it had its moments. There was a specific moment that intrigued me at the beginning where our main characters find themselves in an unspeakable situation. Unfortunately, as soon as we dive away from that, the quality of the movie lessens.

If I had to look in advance at 2022 in film and predict any Best Ensemble nominees at the SAG Awards, “Amsterdam” would have been a contender based on name recognition. However, much like Garry Marshall’s unwatchable holiday-based movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day,” the movie’s cast is the one glimmer of hope within what can simply be referred to as a hot mess. At least on paper. I never thought I would see the day where we have Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro in the same movie. I just hope when that unpredictable day came along, there was good script for them all to bring to the screen.

As for other positives, the movie is attractively colorful. Not quite as glitzy and glossy as say “Elvis,” which in some ways might happen to be a good thing if you ask me. However, the look of the film is sometimes easy on the eyes. In addition to having a stacked, recognizable cast, a lot of them are wearing stunning outfits, some look handsome or sexy. If this were a silent film, this might be okay depending on what you put for text. The sets at times look presentable, elaborate, and occasionally have a vintage feel to them.

There is a saying that looks are not everything, and this movie is exhibit A as to why that saying exists. Yes, some of my favorite actors are put in the forefront. Yes, some of the costumes and sets look dazzling. Yes, the movie has an occasional feeling of immersion. Although this cannot save the film itself from providing what could be one of the sloppiest stories of the decade, and that is despite this movie claiming “A LOT OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.” Just because a story is true, does not make it entertaining. You want to know a true story? I woke up today and wrote this review. Imagine if I tried to sell that as a movie. The distributor would probably go out of business!

Here is a fun fact. Christian Bale, who has worked with David O. Russell in the past, signed on to do “Amsterdam” before a script was written. I get the notion of wanting to work with a big name director. Especially one you supposedly have a decent relationship with. Heck, if I were an actor and I hear the name Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele I automatically think “business partnership.” I hope while these two high-profile industry insiders were thinking about how great it would be to work with each other, they took a moment to think of the quality of what they were going to make. Because despite the quantity of big names, quality seems to be sacrificed when it comes to the final product of “Amsterdam.”

In the end, “Amsterdam” has occasional glimmers of enjoyment, with some extreme emphasis on the word “occasional.” The film has an okay start, but the film itself never finds a way to be as compelling or entertaining as its first ten or fifteen minutes. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I cannot say the same for “Amsterdam.” I am going to give the forgettable and dull “Amsterdam” a 4/10.

“Amsterdam” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! I will soon unveil my thoughts on a couple of horror movies I watched recently, specifically “Smile” and “Halloween Ends.” Also, if you want to see more reviews from me, check out my thoughts on “See How They Run.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Amsterdam?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast whose script could not justify its star power? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Oblivion (2013): Non-Cyberpunk 2077

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Fun fact, ever since I have started my journey here on Scene Before since 2016, I have talked about 10 Tom Cruise movies. Granted, 60% of those films happen to be in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, but still. I have talked about “The Last Samurai,” “Risky Business,” “The Firm,” “American Made,” and as recently suggested, all six of his “Mission: Impossible” movies. Over the years I have missed a few new releases of his that I had a chance to review while it was in the theater such as “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and “The Mummy,” but between life, a lack of motivation, and those kinds of weird-ass excuses, I have not gotten around to them.

So the question is, after all this time, will I finally get to these movies?! No! I will not!

Instead, I’m gonna focus on some other Tom Cruise films, one of which includes the 2013 post-apocalyptic science fiction flick “Oblivion.” This film, along with a few others are going to be reviewed in place of what could have been reviewed in June, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which was supposed to release at the end of the month. But, you know, coronavirus. It’s the talk of the town. While Tom Cruise felt the need for speed in 1986, things must have slowed down in 2020, which at this point is asking 2016 to hold a crapton of beers. Nevertheless, let’s stop dilly-dallying and start diving into the first review of…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Oblivion” is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who coincidentally is also helming the upcoming film “Top Gun: Maverick,” which like this movie, stars Tom Cruise. Aside from Tom Cruise, this movie stars Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight, The Shawshank Redemption), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, To the Wonder), Andrea Riseborough (Welcome to the Punch, Disconnect), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones, Mama), and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter). This film takes place during post-apocalyptic times in the year 2077 and it follows Tom Cruise’s character of Jack Harper, who currently lives on Earth as a technician who is responsible for maintaining drones as remaining resources are extracted in order to complete a five-year mission. Once this mission is completed, Jack and his partner will join the rest of humanity on their new home, Titan, a moon near Saturn.

Going into “Oblivion” for this review, it was my first time watching it and I was relatively curious as to what it would contain. I figured from the title and Tom Cruise being put in the center that it would be somewhat blockbuster-esque. When it comes to Tom Cruise movies, it kind of sounded like an “Edge of Tomorrow” type of deal. After all that film is sci-fi and action based. Much like “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Oblivion” does have its moments of action, but it does not seem to commit as heavily to it. From what I remember of “Edge of Tomorrow,” the action in that film is almost nonstop. After all, the concept of “Edge of Tomorrow” completely warrants it. It’s “Groundhog Day,” but the same day over and over is in the middle of futuristic battle. “Edge of Tomorrow,” even though there are other things to like about it, shines mostly from its concept.

Similarly, the writing and story for “Oblivion” is not all that bad, but it is two of the main characters, at least to me, that give this movie its overall watchability. And even though Morgan Freeman is the second actor I mentioned when introducing this film, he is not the highlight, even though his voice is worthy enough of its own relaxation album. In fact, his character, is probably one of the few that I’ll probably forget as time goes on. But from the very beginning, Jack and his communications partner have terrific chemistry. This movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2077 and not only do the characters played by Cruise and Riseborough match the vibe of the time, but I was able to buy into the stakes regarding their partnership. Together, their goal as partners is to be an “effective team,” which plays heavily into how the movie unfolds. One of the things that I notice a lot about futuristic sci-fi, or maybe just sci-fi in general for some cases, is that compared to the world we live in today, there is some lack of emotion in certain spots. Even with the lack of emotion in place, there is still a sense of realized chemistry between Cruise and Riseborough. And when the dramatic moments do hit, I feel it. This movie is a post-apocalypse story first, but if I were to judge it as a relationship drama, I’d give it a thumbs up. Also, sidenote, I like how at the beginning of the film he travels in his ship with his personal bobblehead to keep him company. It’s like his own little hula girl you put on the dashboard of your car or something.

“Oblivion” came out in 2013, and when it comes to the effects in this film, they feel pretty clean despite being in this rather depressing environment, but that’s not a bad thing. It does add a little glamour to something that doesn’t have much life in it. Specifically, I’m talking about the world, not the movie. This is not me bashing on the movie. I mean, the drones look very well put together and even though we just saw a new “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie that came out this year, the drones in this movie look twice as detailed and polished. I like the drones from a sound perspective as well.

I will say, having watched this movie in 2020, it does feel a bit weird, because even though we are living in a time where things are getting back to normal, one of the major plot points of the movie involves Tom Cruise’s past. Without really diving into spoiler territory, the way “Oblivion” handles this is likable, and as of now, kind of relatable. The movie starts out with Tom Cruise in an industrialized New York City, and it goes into his emotions in terms of how much he longs for the good days of old to return. Back when we had toilet paper and less masks and gather–wait, I think this is the wrong timeline! From this moment, and a few others during the movie, I got a sense of who the character of Jack Harper really was. A guy who went about his daily life with his partner, appreciating one moment after the next, but he also wanted the past to return, back when the Earth had numerous fun activities.

And even though Jack Harper is… (sigh) a Yankees fan, I understood his character because he wanted activities like sports and those sorts of things to return. Although given the circumstances, bringing those back would be a near impossible task.

I also really like the character of Julia, played by Olga Kurylenko. As mentioned, this movie focuses a lot on Jack Harper’s past, and the same can be said for this character. The way this was handled was very well done and made for one of the better parts of the movie. If I am not mistaken, “Oblivion” is my introduction to Olga Kurylenko, so I would like to see what else is put on her resume in the future.

Now onto the negatives, the film honestly starts much better than it concludes. I think the best parts of the movie take place through exposition and buildup. Even though the climax is somewhat entertaining, it misses an oomph factor to take it up a couple notches. Once again, I will mention, as much I like Morgan Freeman, this is probably one of his roles that I will end up forgetting. Granted, per usual, he is charismatic, but compared to other characters in the film, he does not climb up the ladder for me.

In the end, I went into “Oblivion” thinking it was kind of going to start off as this big action extravaganza, like “Edge of Tomorrow,” but it turned out to be something somewhat smaller in scale, which I am fine with. The shots in this movie are very well done, I admire most of the characters, and when it comes to Joseph Kosinski as a director, seeing this film makes me somewhat faithful that he can pull off a “Top Gun” sequel. Although when it comes to his past work, “Tron: Legacy” is definitely worth your time. Would I watch “Oblivion” again? Sure I would. In fact, this might be one of those movies that might be better the second time. It may have one or two moments or things that I missed that could make for a relatively fun second go. As far as Tom Cruise movies go, not bad. I’m going to give “Oblivion” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This is the first installment to my Tom Cruise Month review series, I hope you enjoyed it, because I want to remind you that this is just the beginning. My next film in the series is going to be the 1983 flick “All the Right Moves…” I wish I’m doing something else, but here we are. That review is probably going to be up on Monday or Tuesday, depends on when I watch the movie. But next Friday is my current deadline. I wanted to get the post I’m doing right now up by this previous Tuesday, but between everything going on in the world, and I will admit, laziness, I was a little late on this. By the way, if you are reading this, happy June! …Or whatever time in the world it is, I lost track I don’t know how many centuries ago. If you want to see more content like this, please consider following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, head on over to my Facebook page! WE HAVE TOILET PAPER! That’ll get everyone in, right? I want to know, did you see “Oblivion?” What did you think about it? Or, do you have any bobbleheads? List em’ down in the comments, I want to hear about them! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!