Saturday, 5 January 2013

Lincoln (2012) - ★★

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner (screenplay), Doris Kearns Goodwin (book, in part)
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

This is a film that was made by one of the greatest film-makers of all time, stars arguably the greatest actor of all time, with a supporting role from one of the greatest actresses of all time. I can hardly believe it was as boring as it was. It's dull, and lacks with the portrayal of who Lincoln was as a person. Although it is far from a bad movie, it could have been captivating. Spielberg had all the resources a film-maker could possibly want, but took a safe chance.

The plot surrounds the story of how Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) tried to pass the 13th amendment, which would abolish slavery. It also brings in some personal drama with Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), and his son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). 

This story entails arguably the most interesting and entertaining politics in the history of the US, where there was corruption, civil war between The North and South, and of course, great fights between Republicans and Democrats. It should have been enthralling to see, but it fell short. This movie stops and starts constantly. It stops whenever Lincoln tells a story or speaks with his family, then starts when it's a scene of the amendment being discussed in The House of Representatives. At times I became irritated when I saw Daniel Day-Lewis back on screen, because I knew I would be in for an uninteresting story or a melodramatic family drama. This film is unashamedly sentimental. It's like War Horse, where the interesting content is there, but Spielberg adds in scenes that try to make us go "Aww." I would have liked less "Aww," more 'history' and more entertainment.

Daniel Day-Lewis himself was brilliant at Lincoln, in what I can only assume was a pretty darn good impression. The character itself was the most unsatisfying thing about this movie. We heard him tell stories, we saw him get mad occasionally, we saw prolonged shots of him staring into the distance. What we didn't get to see was who he was on the inside. I tried to understand this man and share in his emotions, but alas there was always a wall. I attribute this 'wall' to Lincoln coming across as more of a legendary character than a human being, which is where the ultimate flaw in the film lies.

One thing this film does do is reaffirm Daniel Day-Lewis as arguably the greatest actor of all time. It shows his versatility in the field better than any of his previous works. I don't think it's his best performance, but it was really good none the less. Tommy Lee Jones, however, was by far the standout in the movie. His scenes were electric and struck life into the film like lightning, reminding me of scenes from To Kill a Mockingbird, (a much better film I might add). Sally Field is also to be commended for her brilliant performance as Mary-Todd, and is sure to secure an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress.

What stuck out to me like a sore thumb was the film leaving out an actual scene of Lincoln's assassination. One scene he's alive, the next you hear "The President has been shot!" That is such a cop out. It would have been an incredible scene to see on film. That moment should have been the climax of Abe's story. It's just very odd to me that they would choose to leave out something so important. Were they afraid that some viewers would be offended? Would it push the rating of the film too high? I don't know, all I know is that it's extremely annoying that they choose to add about thirty minutes of irrelevant melodrama to his story, but they can't add in a couple of minutes of his assassination.

Overall, it is a good movie, but far from great. It didn't teach me anything interesting about Abe Lincoln. It was more dull than entertaining. The performances were fantastic, the music was good, the cinematography was good. The main problem was that the main character seemed more like a God than a man to me, so when I reached out to understand him, all I got were speeches filled with wisdom. So in many ways Lincoln was a disappointment.

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