Amistad is a very well crafted, well acted, and well told story. It is also mostly true to the history of events surrounding the Amistad 'mutiny', and the defense of the Africans responsible for it by John Quincy Adams and a young lawyer named Baldwin. I put the word mutiny in quotes because it is absurd to think of people fighting against murder, enslavement and rape as any form of crime. The film is unabashed about showing us the brutality and outrageousness of the covertly institutionalized slave trade that haunted one of America's darkest, most retrograde periods, and pulls no punches about the cultural differences between its victims, its culprits, and those who felt that it was not their problem.
Amistad ranks as one of McConaughey's finest performances, perhaps his best. But nearly the entire cast is blown off the screen by the passionate, sensitive and profound performance of Djimon Hounsou. Hopkins is good as Adams, but what else is new? Though the film does not have a literary feel - it is pure cinema - it is a truly great story featuring bold characters and a deep and simple emotionality which draws its audience in. Alistad has a spirit that can only be described as truthfulness.
Despite his detractors, Spielburg proves again and again that morally decent films with positive messages can be entertaining and artfully crafted.