Set in 1839, this film celebrates the holy grail of freedom and how the quest for justice is supported by the spirits of ancestors and a yearning for home. A group of Africans take over a Spanish slave ship bound for America. They are eventually captured and put in a New Haven, Connecticut, prison.
Two zealous abolitionists, Lewis Tappan (Stellan Skarsgard) and Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman), take up their cause by hiring a real estate attorney, Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey), who is convinced he has the key to set them free. But powerful forces are lined up against him including a judge handpicked by the pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne). The case eventually goes all the way to the Supreme Court where former President John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins), inspired by the moral stature of an African named Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), makes a stirring defense of freedom as the linchpin of the American way of life.
Steven Spielberg's direction draws out all the moral nuances in this searing drama about the invidious evil of racism and the waywardness of politics tainted by greed and face-saving. Amistad presents a mesmerizing portrait of human dignity under fire and salutes the spiritual firepower of justice.