Friday, November 9, 2012

Lincoln Movie Review

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln

From our friends at DC Film Review...

Lincoln: A History of Dullness

Steven Spielberg gets a lot of credit (and rightfully so) for being one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived; but time has a way of catching up with all of us. Spielberg’s fall from grace (at least for this reviewer) began in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and continued through last year’s disastrous duo of The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. His latest effort, Touchtone Pictures’ Lincoln is so boring, so void of Spielberg-magic that I have to question his ability to hold the attention of an audience who wasn’t alive when Jaws was released (1975.)

IMDb Plot: As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

What’s Good: Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Lincoln. Apologies to Henry Fonda, Raymond Massey and even Brendan Fraser (Bedazzled) but it’s true. Bedazzled jokes aside, you could stick Day-Lewis’s face on the $5 bill and no one would notice the difference. The 2x Oscar winning Best Actor’s Lincoln is a gentle giant for sure, but don’t blame Day-Lewis for his character’s endless chatter. It’s hard to question giving too many lines to someone with Day-Lewis’ talent, but there’s a limit to what one man can do. Kudos to Day-Lewis for sneaking life into an otherwise dull (there’s that word again) character with subtle touches such as hiding his speeches in his top hat or arguing with wife Mary (Sally Field.)

James Spader ranks a close second to Day-Lewis, as the utterly charismatic and colorful Democratic Party op William N. Bilboe, who tosses around lines like, ‘Well, I’ll be fu*ked!’ when surprised by Lincoln himself. Sadly, Spader gets lost in the glut of characters that overcrowd Spielberg’s film.

What’s Not: I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but after the film’s violent opening (an 1860’s version of Saving Private Ryan) Spielberg literally falls asleep at the wheel (or carriage, as the case may be.) The next two and a half hours are laden with talk, talk and more talk. I like history as much as the next guy, but movies are meant to entertain (aren’t they?) 17,000 shells are fired on Wilmington, Delaware; but all we see is a telex. That’s just inexcusable. Lincoln, the movie is like watching a play without the salvation of intermission. Just wait until the 13th Amendment is brought before Congress: Spielberg shows each and every vote (with reactions.) It takes forever.

They Said It: Tommy Lee Jones (as Thaddeus Stevens) may play grouchy, but earns laughs for ‘I believe I am smiling’ when posing for a picture; and points for honesty when he yells out, ‘Sh*t on the people. I don’t care about the people.’ On the other hand, remarks by a black Private to his Commander-in-Chief, ‘You got springy hair for a white boy’ are just plain dumb.

What’s the Grade? D for dull: If I want a history lesson, I’ll open a book or point my browser to Wikipedia. Spielberg assumes way too much from his audience... So much so, that he completely bypasses exciting them. Honest Abe tells Mary, ‘I’m keenly aware of my aloneness.’ After more than two hours of listening to Abe pontificate and reflect with equal stoicism, I am too. Suddenly Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter doesn’t look so bad... At least he did something.

Grade: D