021 - Amistad (1997)

Everyone deserves their own freedom. To do as you please so long as you don't interfere negatively with the freedom of mankind. This is basic human rights, isn't it? Amistad tells the story of those struggling for this simple right.

In 1839 a slave ship - La Amistad - was overthrown by the slaves on board. The two remaining Spanish crew direct the ship to the American shores where the slaves are given the chance to explain their story.

On one hand the Spanish claim the slaves as their own. They claim they were taken - legally - from Cuba as laid down in a treaty with the United States in the 18th Century. The two Spanish crew are also claiming the slaves as theirs as the spoils of war. Finally, a small time property lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) is given the opportunity to represent the slaves as free men, claimed illegally from the West coast of Africa.

Theatrical Poster
The ensuing courtroom drama brings McConaughey's acting into a whole new light. Gone is the man from How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and other cheesy rom-coms and in comes a man who has found a higher range of acting. He is backed up brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins, whose 12 minute monologue at the close of the film is both inspiring and unexpected. Morgan Freeman - although named as a big star - only has a minor part to play as an ex-slave.

While some of the scenes of the film take place in a foreign language - and not subtitled - the film actually benefits from this. The lack of translation is a perfect representation of the lack of understanding that the slaves must have had.

The solemn ending is a reminder that despite winning the battle, the war is not over.

Congratulations, Mr. Spielberg. With this masterpiece, we're a long way towards winning the war.