Lincoln (2012) – 4/5

lincoln

Long, well crafted, but somewhat dry film with some fine performances and a plot that focuses more on the political hand-wringing Lincoln and his administration had to go through in their effort to abolish slavery than anything exciting or action packed. The whole movie is mostly made up of politicians giving big speeches and arguing and otherwise trying to persuade one another of this or that or the other thing, or a happy mix of all three. It’s not the most engaging thing to watch for two and a half hours, but it has its moments. And it’s Spielberg so you know you’re in good hands, usually. Still, not exactly what I was expecting.

The film does take a while to get into, about an hour actually, and I did almost fall asleep a few times in the process, but that may have been more to do with general exhaustion on my part than anything the movie failed to do for me. It’s also somewhat confusing at first as a lot of the dialogue is not only dense politically, but crafted in that fancy mid 19th century borderline Shakespeare speak most people love to spend their free time deciphering. But whatever; I understand it’s a political period piece and it’s not supposed to be as straightforward as your average everyday movie. And the thing is ambitious and, considering its success, groundbreaking in a way given that it still manages to be somewhat interesting despite its lack of “standard” action. Spielberg was trying something new here: a big, epic, mainstream historical film where the brunt of the action is more verbal than physical. The plot progresses as people are convinced, extorted, threatened, or bargained with; in other words, it progresses as minds are changed. And that’s very rare to see in a big budget mainstream film, let alone one from Spielberg.

The acting, of course, is good to great, with Daniel Day-Lewis, yes, giving a fantastic performance. The man is a chameleon, what can I say? His voice, his mannerisms, all extremely convincing, especially the voice. How in the hell does he do that? The man has a natural British accent for crying out loud, yet you’d be hard pressed to tell he was anything other than a full blooded American from watching him here. He’s strong and powerful, yet surprisingly restrained. There’s not an ounce of fat in this performance, nothing over the top or excessive like there was in “There Will Be Blood.” Sally Field is also really good, probably the best I’ve ever seen her in anything. She never struck me as being a particularly strong actress, but here, she’s really quite something. Tommy Lee Jones too, man, especially in the later half of the film. Some fine actors really firing on all cylinders. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though, really doesn’t belong here. He’s in way over his head and utterly unbelievable in almost every scene he’s in, especially when opposite Day-Lewis. He does **SPOILERS** get slapped around a bit by Day-Lewis though, **END SPOILERS** so it’s not a complete loss. But yeah, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Same with James Spader; there was just something off about him here. Must have been all those extra chins.

Overall, decent movie, not for everyone, barely even for me at times. You need to be in a certain mindset before going into it I think, and have some appreciation or interest in history, and even then, it might be a tough watch. The film does get better as it goes along, and features some very good performances, and the cinematography sure is nice to look at. It’s also quite funny at times, even if some of the jokes are occasionally hard to understand given the dialogue. I also thought it odd how all the major black characters in this don’t really look black; it’s almost as though they specifically made sure to choose very light-skinned black actors for fear the audience wouldn’t sympathize with them otherwise, which is quite hypocritical of the film if true. You never know: Hollywood has been known to do such things from time to time. Then again, I could just be seeing racism where none exists.

Anyway, worth a watch, but only if it’s your kind of thing.

 

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