When Germany invades Holland in 1940, a British intelligence officer and two Dutch diamond merchants go to Amsterdam to persuade the Dutch diamond merchants to evacuate their diamond supplies to England.
This movie is based on a true story as written in A.P. Scotland's autobiography "The London Cage". The plot has greatly exaggerated the actual events of A.P. Scotland's experiences, including the addition of a fictional love interest.
During WW II, British commandos visit occupied Holland to keep a fortune in diamonds out of Nazi hands. Tense action follows as Anna, Jan and their colleagues play cat and mouse with the Dutch army, knowing that one of their number may be a traitor.Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
The film opens with the Nazi invasion of Holland on Friday 10th May 1940, Churchill's rise to British Prime Minister the following day, and then the launch of Operation Amsterdam itself on Sunday 12th May. See more »
When the British agents first arrive, German airplanes try to bomb them before they can reach the shore. A line of the special effects charges are clarly seen bobbing in the water before they detonate. See more »
The producers are most grateful for the valuable co-operation of the Royal Netherlands navy and the civic authorities of Amsterdam and Ymuiden. See more »
'Operation Amsterdam' is one that had gotten away from me. I thought I'd seen just about every WWII movie that ever was. So when I came across it on DVD, I felt nicely piqued.
And when I watched it, I felt nicely surprised, decently entertained.
The plot isn't terribly exciting, the script could have benefitted from a wee bit of polishing, but the production works well because tension is strung taut and relaxed, and strung taut and relaxed again and again throughout the film.
Peter Finch and Alexander Knox are two Dutch diamond experts who sail in a British destroyer with an English secret agent: destination Amsterdam. Mission: come out, before the Nazis surround or take the city, with the Dutch inventory of industrial diamonds. Object: deprive Nazi war industry of the tool-cutting, metal-shaping worth of those diamonds.
In the haunting desertion of orderly Amsterdam streets, the intrepid trio meets with Dutch diamond merchants, scampers in and out of the clutches of Dutch fifth columnists, mucks in with Dutch resistance fighters, and warily accepts guidance throughout from a Dutchwoman whom they cannot, at first, trust (played with restrained charm by Eva Bartok). Some of the diamond merchants are, as they've always been in Amsterdam, Jews. The point is made about Nazi persecution of Jews and about the dilemmas many Jews faced when the Nazis occupied their countries, but in 'Operation Amsterdam' the points are made unsentimentally - which highlights the stark panic, fear, and despair many Jews felt in that baleful time and circumstance. Indeed, throughout the film characters are beset by choices, choices they must make because time, as the story development lets us know clearly, is running out for everybody in the Netherlands.
It's the storytelling and the actors' understatement - nothing is James Bondish about these ordinary characters finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances - that make the story absorbing, believable. Abetted by the unsettling counterpoint between carnivalesque Dutch pierement (organ grinders) music - happy music playing in a bleak city, over throngs of departing refugees, during the agents' tense search for and gathering of the diamonds - and by terse snare drumming, the story keeps ratcheting up its grip on the viewer, holding tight tempo with the agents' mission and their dedication to accomplishing it.
The only serious flaw in the film's visuals owes to most of the deserted street shots having to be filmed immediately after dawn (else Amsterdam's population would be thronging its thoroughfares). This yields a bit of a crazy quilt mix of shots having long shadows intercut with shots having midday, short shadows - supposedly happening in the same instant. Otherwise, the camerawork and editing jive nicely with the unfolding of the plot.
Also ramping up the tension is the script's bareness: one really must think a lot - sometimes too much - about what's going on, about what's coming next, but the need to think that way lends the viewer a heightened sense of uncertainty, danger, and dread. It also helps that the scriptwriter avoided the worst cliches of the genre: the scenes of Eva Bartok and Peter Finch are treated as bare-bones, wartime heartbreak rather than as apocryphal "we fell in love in battle" nonsense.
Generally, props are first-rate, except for Dutch soldiers and resistance fighters toting German MP-40 machine pistols which were in short enough supply in the 1940 Wehrmacht, and for a few 1950's-era military trucks. The other weaponry is all true to period: Dutch army M1895 Mannlicher rifles, Luger pistols, period revolvers and such. Also, Dutch uniforms and personal gear are precisely from the story's 1940 time-frame. The only other minor quibble is one found in quite a few late-50's and 1960's WWII films: a four-seater Messerschmitt Bf.108 touring aeroplane stands in for the later, design-derivative Bf.109 fighter (See 'Von Ryan's Express', and 'The Longest Day' for more examples of this substitution - which was necessary since there were then no restored, flyable Bf.109E aircraft.).
'Operation Amsterdam' hasn't dated nearly as badly as have so many other WWII films made in the twenty years following the war because it sticks to its story, because it tells its story without frills, excursions into moralizing, or distracting subplots. Though it didn't benefit from a larger budget, as did 'The Counterfeit Traitor' which was filmed in the same era, 'Operation Amsterdam' delivers the goods.
Summed up: Agents voyage to Amsterdam to deprive Nazis of diamonds, return to us with a minor gem of a movie.
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