In 1997, a movie was made about the slave mutiny aboard a Spanish ship called La Amistad (which is ironically Spanish for “friendship”). In 1839, fifty-three African men, women, and children who were going to be sold into slavery in America rebelled and killed all but two members of the ship’s crew. After being unwittingly led to America, the would-be slaves must endure a lengthy trial deciding their fates. The movie, named after the ship on which the mutiny occurred, does an incredible job depicting the range of emotions that the characters involved went through.
Cinque, the title African character, is played by Djimon Hounsou. He is the one who made the mutiny aboard the ship possible in the first place, and does a lot throughout the movie to stimulate the eventual acquittal of the Africans, including testifying in front of the entire courtroom. Through the ups and downs of the trial, Cinque exhibits an immense range of emotions, all of which are portrayed beautifully by Hounsou.
Morgan Freeman played the role of Theodore Joadson, a former slave. A typically spirited actor, Freeman had very little impact in Amistad. There was little dialogue, or even emotion in general from his character, and it is a disappointment when you think of how well Freeman can act.
Anthony Hopkins represents John Quincy Adams in Amistad. At first seemingly uninterested in the trial, Hopkins makes you angry with his character, angry with his complete apathy and self-absorption. But when he finally agrees to represent the fifty-three Africans in the trial, his performance does not disappoint. He was, in my opinion, the best actor in Amistad.
I personally thought that Matthew McConaughey was an obscure choice for the part of Roger Baldwin. He did well in acting out the characteristic lawyer, with persistence and salesmanship, and I enjoyed watching his exhilaration after winning the freedom of the Africans.
Amistad takes you back to a period in our country that not many...