*½/**** Image A Sound B Extras D
starring Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou
screenplay by David Franzoni
directed by Steven Spielberg
by Walter Chaw Mid-career, Sergei Eisenstein wrote a book-length study of film form. He did it with humour and a Coleridge-ian wistfulness. He writes that, once he's finished with this book, he'll try some of the things he's talking about in it. Among them is an idea that, what if instead of using montage (which he calls "vulgar"), someone were to evoke the idea of "murder" just by showing ten sequences, not otherwise linked by linear exposition, that separately evoke murder? In more ways than this, but in this particular way, Steven Spielberg is the prodigal. He evoked "war" in twenty impossibly harrowing minutes to open Saving Private Ryan; he evoked "Holocaust" in a similar stretch in the middle of Schindler's List; he evokes "slavery" in an absolutely tremendous, wordless chunk about halfway through Amistad; and he sandwiches all of it in patronizing, ham-handed treacle, massively, criminally over-scored by chief enabler/collaborator John Williams.