From a movie raved about so highly, I expected more. Of course it is very well done with good performances and direction, but it didn’t stand out like I expected.
I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but it wasn’t what I found in Spielberg’s film. It felt like such a stuffy talking drama at the beginning and then certain portions along the way until we got periods of interesting discussion and debate and political manipulations. If only the short lulls weren’t there I would probably rave about this movie as well. So much of this movie is set indoors, allowing us to hear about but not see the battles. Everything about this movie clearly sets the tone that Lincoln and the supporters of the Amendment are right-thinking progressives while the opponents are one-dimensional characters clearly wrong and losing through hindsight. It’s a talkfest of a biopic which might be interesting for political history nuts but is a bit dull and long for everyone else.
After they pass the Amendment it feels like we get into another talking lull, but this time it’s because every character acknowledges Lincoln is about to be killed. I hardly think everybody knew Lincoln would be shot as he walks out the door to the theatre, but we get this scene of his back as he walks down the hallway away from us. It’s the most elegant Lincoln shot of the film with the top hat and long coat, his tall figure on it’s own for a very extended view. Everybody seems to know they’ll never see him again. His acquaintances raise from their seats as he leaves and looks over him fondly and his butler ponders over him like he just knows something isn’t right. I like that there was never any mystery about the shooting, that it merely summed up the life of Lincoln and therefore, this movie.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays President Abraham Lincoln marvelously. He won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for his performance and has been nominated for the SAG and Oscar. He inhabited the role entirely and I would expect him to receive the Oscar. Tommy Lee Jones is nominated for Supporting Actor for his role as Thaddeus Stevens. It isn’t that I disliked his performance, but it felt very similar to many other performances he has done. You can only be a grouchy, grumpy old man so many times in your films. Although, who else really suits a role that requires naming someone a nincompoop in court? Sally Field is Mary Todd Lincoln, and nominated for Oscar’s Supporting Actress category. Field is 20 years older than Mary was at that time, and 10 years older than Lincoln and I found the age difference to be somewhat noticeable. Even so, I think she did a really good job of crying her way through the movie. I don’t know if I’d give her an Oscar for it though…
The first scene of the movie is the only war battle shown and it was quintessentially Spielberg, unfortunately that doesn’t progress farther into the film. Everything is darkly lit with many closeups and in your face arguments. A bit of a yawn unfortunately. Spielberg could have kept with his more serious tone but also went out into the war a little more so we didn’t feel so inert. The trailer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWpMt2-Z-fc) does a great job of depicting exactly what this movie is, but once it’s spread over two and a half hours it becomes a slow-going plod to get to the end. I don’t need explosions and war to make it more interesting, but maybe slim it down a little in length or create some excitement.
Lincoln is nominated for twelve Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.