One such occasion in Amistad is the depiction of the slave ship's middle passage. The obscenity of what we're watching -- in which black bodies are fed to the sea and mothers silently jump overboard with their babies -- is matched by our realization that a mainstream Hollywood movie has never really depicted this horror before. That's an obscenity, too. Normally when he goes into his righteous reformer's mode, Spielberg betrays his sharpest filmmaker's instincts. Not here. Amistad is itself a movie in shackles. Stylistically it's staid -- weighted with import. But in his depiction of the slave ship transit, Spielberg throws off the shackles. Be thankful for large favors.
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by David Franzoni. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey.