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Monday, October 8, 2012

Lincoln Review

Dreamworks Studios/Touchstone Pictures
Lincoln Review
2012, Running time unknown
Rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language

Note: This is for an unfinished (it was probably about done) version of the film.

Lincoln is by far Steven Spielberg''s weakest film.  It is also one of his most uncharacteristic.  Headed by Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, the film focuses more on Lincoln and his cabinet trying to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery than the man himself.  

Daniel Day-Lewis will be a sure-fire Oscar-nominee for this film.  His performance is understated and shows depth in a role written with very little depth.  Day-Lewis completely disappears into the role.  His line delivery is impeccable and he has a very gentle screen presence, unlike in There Will Be Blood.    Tommy Lee Jones, as Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, gives one of his greatest performances.  As Stevens, he is quick-witted and spirited.  He easily steals every scene that he is in a deserves an Oscar nomination, if not win.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, is weak.  Field, a two-time Best Actress Oscar-winner, is never convincing and her performance feels forced.  So is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's as Lincoln's older son.  

The music, by John WIlliams, is very nice.  Unlike War Horse or anything else that Williams has done, the score was understated and did not overwhelm the picture.  Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is, as usual, beautiful and complements the film very nicely.

Much of the film's problems come from the script by Tony Kushner (Munich, Angels in America).  Kushner, in trying to be as historically accurate as possible forgets to make the film compelling.  The first 90 minutes or so are so completely dull and boring that it is not fun to watch.  This isn't helped by the fact that the dialogue is stilted.  So much information is thrown out at once and is delivered in long-winded speeches that it is hard to follow and pay attention to.  Few realistic-sounding back-and-forth conversations take place.  Kushner also forgets to develop Lincoln.  While we get a basic sense of who Lincoln is, we don't get much below the surface.  His character has no character flaw and there is no arc to him which leads to him being uninteresting (though Day-Lewis does an excellent job).  In addition, the film focused more on the passing of the 13th Amendment than Lincoln himself.

The only compelling portion of the film is where the final vote is counted on the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives.  It is genuinely suspenseful and moving.  After that, however, the movie goes on for a little while and is very corny.

I will say, though, that Spielberg seemed to put a lot of care into the film.  The film felt lovingly made, as most of his films do.  

Overall, Lincoln is not a complete failure, but isn't anywhere near being a success.  It has too many problems with its screenplay to be good.  Though this was technically an unfinished version of the film, there didn't seem to be much to finish and there is no way that they can cut this film to make it more interesting or enjoyable.  It is fundamentally flawed.  

-Joshua Handler

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