Amsterdam: Star-Studded Whodunnit Fails to Deliver

2/5 Falcons

At first, Amsterdam appears to be centered around a murder and vast conspiracy. However, just when it finds its rhythm, the film catches the viewer completely off guard. Amsterdam follows World War I veterans Bert Berendson (Christian Bale) and Harold Woodsman (John David Washington), and their friendship with the mysterious nurse, Valerie (Margot Robbie), whom they met while deployed. Years later, Bert and Harold find success as a doctor and lawyer, respectively, and are hired by the daughter of a war general, Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift), who suspects her father was murdered. Liz hires the pair to perform an illegal autopsy, only to be violently pushed in front of a car and killed once it is discovered that her father was poisoned. Liz’s murderer frames Bert and Harold, forcing them to attempt to prove their innocence to the police while simultaneously evading the killer, who seems to be after them as well. These events, including a lengthy war flashback, take thirty minutes to develop, setting an unusually drawn-out pace for the plotline.

[Amsterdam’s] long-winded plot loses audiences and creates a narrative that is hard to follow.

Bert and Harold find themselves seeking help from the wealthy Voze family, where they discover Valerie is in fact the sister of Mr. Voze (Rami Malek). Voze and his wife Libby (Anya Taylor-Joy) decide to help Bert and Harold find General Dillenbeck (Robert De Niro), a respected marine, who may have answers about the deaths of Liz Meekins and her father. They wind up discovering the Council of the Five, a group of elites conspiring to overthrow the government with the assistance of Dillenbeck and the support of the veterans. This dramatic twist answers very few questions raised in earlier parts of the film. 

Amsterdam is given every opportunity to succeed; between its star-studded cast, phenomenal acting, and stellar costuming, it had all the potential to be a blockbuster murder mystery. However, its long-winded plot loses audiences and creates a narrative that is hard to follow, along with a conclusion that is supposed to answer all the “whodunnit” questions, yet leaves even more. Any plot twists lack the suspense needed to make them intriguing, and the big reveal to make them worth the time to set up. Even some jokes lack a satisfying punchline, leaving Amsterdam in an awkward limbo between a drama and comedy, with supposedly serious parts being unintentionally comedic. In trying to do so much all at once, the plot is left without a central arc to follow. Even the question of “Who killed Mr. Meekins?” is not fully resolved, instead being replaced by a dozen more storylines and conspiracies to follow.

From an artistic perspective, Amsterdam is slightly more successful, if a bit restrained. Every so often, it will place captions while introducing new characters to the crowded ensemble, and provide an occasional voiceover, but it fails to lean into these stylistic choices which could have set it apart from other murder mysteries. Its lack of originality makes the film no more worth watching than any other murder mystery period piece, earning two falcons for Taylor Swift being run over.