Lincoln (2012)


The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, spends the political capital he’s gained from reelection to push for a constitutional amendment outlawing slavery…

Seen before? No.

Best performance: One my favourite actors – David Strathairn, who’s in two of my five favourite movies (Sneakers and LA Confidential; yes, I know my five favourite films, what of it?!) – plays Secretary of State William H. Seward. Sadly he’s not involved as much as he could be. Daniel Day-Lewis is charismatic as Lincoln, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is effective as his troubled son. However, in this film you rarely forget you’re watching actors giving performances. Most of the cast are incredibly theatrical, putting off-kilter emphases on words and shouting to the stalls.

Best scene/moment/sequence: Lincoln’s calm, thoughtful monologue about the legality of the Emancipation Proclamation, one of his numerous soliloquies.

Review: It’s a very talky film – a contrasting bookend for #SpielbergWatch, seeing how we started with the dialogue-sparse Duel. Most scenes are of men sitting at tables talking in paragraphs, which is not exactly vibrant movie-making. I missed Spielberg’s usual visual panache and inventiveness, which barely register in this. The movie does have an interesting story – but it’s a strangely flat one. We all know the ending, of course, and the fight to win the vote doesn’t seem especially difficult. Also, the film’s not as dynamic as the similar-territory Amistad, which more ably showed different aspects of the issue of slavery. Most strikingly, black characters are virtually absent from Lincoln (presumably a deliberate choice, as this is about Washington politics). On the plus side, we get a strong, very watchable lead performance from Day-Lewis, while the semi-comic subplot concerning three political operatives offering jobs and other incentives to whip votes could make a decent movie in itself. It gets nowhere near enough screen time, though; likewise, Lincoln’s family (including Sally Field as his complex wife, Mary) feel underdeveloped. An interesting movie rather than a wholly entertaining one.

Six aye votes out of 10.

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