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SLAVES RING BELL FOR LIBERTY; AMISTAD (15).

In a courtroom drama, whoever tells the best story wins," says ex- president John Quincy Adams in Amistad.

And the story that Steven Spielberg tells here is a true one.

It's 1839 and a group of African slaves overpower and murder the crew of their slave ship Amistad.

Later they are captured, wildly off course for home, and end up being tried in the American courts. At stake is their freedom, and their chance to return home.

The film tends to run aground when its characters launch themselves into long, boring speeches about justice and liberty.

But there are electrifying moments of poetry and passion which save this ship from sinking - mainly provided by Anthony Hopkins as Adams, and Djimon Hounsou as Cinque, leader of the kidnapped slaves.

The film is historically flawed from the point that the ship sails into a snow-covered harbour in America - in August.

Nor did Cinque actually meet John Quincy Adams. But that's why libraries have history books.

Unfortunately, Amistad tries to pack in too much detail. It also tries to deafen you with its hideous score, and numb your nether regions with its epic length.

But it's worth persevering for a powerful story.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 27, 1998
Words:199
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