Daniel Day-Lewis, Stephen Spielberg, and Abe Lincoln. What could be better, right? As it turns out, a whole lot.
Spielberg makes some unusual and risky choices in Lincoln. The main curiosity is his decision to focus the entire film on the last few months of Lincoln’s life and presidency, and about 90% of that was spent on Lincoln’s pushing through Congress the passage of the 13th Amendment.
There were also some interesting decisions around that central choice, most notably the way the assassination was depicted. These gambles did not pay off.
I think an opportunity was gravely missed: to take advantage of consummate actor Day-Lewis and Spielberg’s deft hand to form a more standard biographical account of the life of Lincoln. The story of him as a child studying by candlelight, the ascendency to highest office, the drawing into and execution of war from the President’s perspective, and highlights like the Emancipation Proclamation — these are all fascinating events that the public yearns for. Spielberg, in attempting for some reason a unique tale of Lincoln, completely omits these most interesting stories of Lincoln, and instead seems much more interested in showing that wrangling in Congress was not so different in 1865 as it is now. His retro-CNN treatment utterly fails, and does a great disservice to all viewers.
In the movie’s favor are good performances by Day-Lewis and Sally Field as his wife, but again, these talents are for the most part wasted. Not only does it miss out on all the most salient story elements at its disposal, but the whole feel of the movie lacks the sense of moment or drama that it seeks. The performances by the cast as a whole fall short in the context of the limited vision of this picture. The more I think of this film the more upset I get at what was lost.
This movie has been regaled with universal high praise. I realize it is sacrilege to pan it. But for the many out there who have watched it, were you excited by it? Was it an exciting movie? Was it even interesting? A little. I am certain that time will not be kind to this movie, at least not in the cinephile world. It will have a nice legacy perhaps as an item to be shown in high school history classes.
A shocking 3/10, and probably a cinch for Best Picture Oscar, because the Academy is rarely interested in awards going to a film that deserves it. I hope I am wrong, and that Best Picture goes to a movie of at least the caliber of Argo [prior post], but it seems the coronation has already taken place.