Can Christian Bale Bail Out ‘Amsterdam’s’ Disconnected, Comedic Caper? Our Review Makes A Case For Just That
Christian Bale has been quietly making 2022 his bit*h. That isn’t by design. There doesn’t appear to be any set
Christian Bale has been quietly making 2022 his bit*h.
That isn’t by design.
There doesn’t appear to be any set strategy.
It would be hard to imagine Bale would purposely position himself to be perfectly perched at the top of the Hollywood sign looking down at his kingdom. Ya know, the way Batman does over Gotham City.
No, that just isn’t his style.
The actor is the opposite of a fame seeking, high maintenance thespian. Bale has been known to drive himself to press junkets at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills in an older Toyota Tacoma (a sight I have seen personally). He is more likely to ask his interviewer questions about themselves than the other way around. In speaking with the actor several times over the years he is far more embarrassed to be the center of attention.
Nope, Bale isn’t about ego, he is about work.
And work is just where he found himself in 2021. Bale was, by all reports, a movie making machine, a super silent one at that. The actor spent the year softly slipping out of one movie set and walking with a whisper onto another.
In 2021, Bale found himself caked in more makeup than he’s likely had in the last decade combined for the role of Gorr, the God Butcher, in Thor: Love and Thunder. It was a role that was somewhat out of character for the Oscar winner. Those who have seen the summer blockbuster know that he was ridiculously good.
Later Bale would do double duty by producing and acting in The Pale Blue Eye out at the end of this year. And in the middle he would re-team up with director David O. Russell for Amsterdam, another film that Bale would act in and produce.
If It Ain’t Broke
Amsterdam pairs Bale and Russell together for a third time. Both went all in on 2013’s American Hustle and 2010’s The Fighter. In fact, two of Bale’s four Oscar nominations are for films he has done with Russell, one of which earned him the gold statue for The Fighter. To put it simply, the two are a match made in Hollywood heaven.
Their latest has the two going back to the end of the Great War for the comedic caper. At the center is the friendship of Dr. Burt Berendsen (Bale) and Harold Woodman (John David Washington). Though their friendship is made of fiction, it is weaved into a very factual time of fascism in 1930’s America.
Bert and Harold bonded like only those who have seen war together can. The two made a pact to stay alive and keep one another above ground too while serving in the military. Both are wounded – Bert lost an eye and suffered wounds to half his face, Harold was laid up as well but had the good fortune of crossing paths with Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie) who nursed the two back to help. The three would develop a life-long bond stronger than any hammer yielding thunder God can break.
The three would live footloose and carefree in Amsterdam. Harold and Valerie would fall in love. Bert would return to America and a marriage colder than any Russian winter morning.
Fast forward 15 years and the threesome is once again thrust together in a story that would have them zigzagging with a breakneck speed from plot point to plot point while attempting to solve a murder. Little did the trio know that in their attempt to honor a high-ranking military officer and avenge his death, they would end up saving the country.
‘Amsterdam’ – The Good and The Bad
Amsterdam has an incredible cast. So much so that the assembling of such amazing and awesome acting talent had award talk before much of Hollywood even saw the film. And why wouldn’t it? The cast list had stars so bright that they would rival the illumination of the Las Vegas Strip. Robert DeNiro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Taylor Swift and Zoe Saldana all have roles in the David O. Russell film. And all are good, really good.
The sheer number of uber talented actors is partly to blame for the detached and fast-paced story. There is no question that the heart of this movie is with the friendship between the core three. However, the three carry one another from one comedic circumstance to another, skipping at the surface of the situation and pausing only long enough for the audience to wonder what the heck is going on. There is very little time to give more than a moment of recognition before the three are off again.
The first three-quarters of the movie is devoted to solving a mystery that the audience didn’t have time to connect to, let alone have the opportunity to care about. That leaves one of the film's biggest assets (besides Bale), Robert DeNiro with the task of appearing in the final act to tie-up loose ends and drop the disconnected and dramatic motive of the entire movie.
There are obvious parallels in the 1930’s Amsterdam United States, and the America we know in 2022. Both were/are disturbing downtimes in our country for democracy. That is a clear decision by Russell to point that out, and it's not lost on audiences. To a large degree that served the film well. The issue was that by the time this is revealed, most of the audience isn’t likely to be as invested as the casting demands.
What Amsterdam does well, ridiculously well, is allow Bale to perform. Few, if any, actors can absorb a character and reflect it back to the audience the way Christian Bale does. He is without a doubt one of the finest working actors of our generation – full stop. There hasn’t been a performance in which Bale has not occupied a role so wholly that he devours the screen and the essence of every role.