Double Dutch makes perfect sense…eventually

Mick Ferris
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Amsterdam (15, 134 minutes)

David O. Russell has a reputation for being, I was going to say difficult, but those who have worked on his sets would say something like monster and George Clooney, who came to blows with him on Three Kings over his treatment of extras, would be even more succinct.

But he made the wonderful Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, which means that actors are still willing to throw the dice. Some masochists even come back for more.

No sign of Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper this time, although Christian Bale is back (also as a producer) and the roster here is certainly an impressive one with John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Robert DeNiro, Zoe Saldana, Chris Rock, Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Mike Myers and Michael Shannon all on board for a cross genre giant jigsaw puzzle of a film that has everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it.

But persevere with this sometimes utterly confusing Russell vanity project and the fog clears to reveal method behind what at first looks like complete off the rails ego madness.

Set mostly in 1933, Bale, Washington and Robbie play friends who meet on the Western Front during the First World War when nurse Valerie tends to the men’s horrific wound, keeping the shrapnel she takes from their bodies to make art.

Years later the trio get caught up in a political murder mystery espionage thriller (add comedy to that list) based on a real life plot by the wealthy far right to replace President Franklin D Roosevelt in the White House with an unelected populist puppet dictator

It also resonates quite obviously with this past January’s attempted insurrection in the US.

But among all the chaos, there is an unbeatable strength of camaraderie and enduring friendship that transcends gender and colour during a period in history when both were a far cry from modern times.

A short time the friends spend together in Amsterdam after the war is symbolic of a happiness they can never recapture.

There are certainly some eccentric, even zany characters here, none more so than Bale, who plays Burt, a well meaning former Park Avenue doctor shipped off to the Western Front by his wealthy in-laws and on his return spends the next 15 years administering illegally to fellow veterans while testing out new painkilling medications on himself.

With his glass eye and battered, twisted body topped off with a mad professor haircut and cartoon Brooklyn accent, Burt looks more suited to a Wes Anderson movie, but it wouldn’t surprise me if once the dust settles there are a few noms getting thrown about come awards season.

I loved this crazy mess.

RATING: 9/10


Mick Ferris

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