Post-Oscars Movie Blitz: Lincoln (2012)
It may be a worse film in just about every way imaginable, but to be honest, I thought the version where he was a vampire slayer was more exciting.
That’s right. I just (blasphemously) admitted that I enjoyed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer more than the Steven Spielberg-directed, Daniel Day Lewis-acted, best picture-nominated Lincoln.
It’s not that Lincoln is bad. Far from it. It’s actually a superbly made film — stylish, solemn, powered by the ridiculously magnificent Daniel Day Lewis (whom I like to call the male Meryl Streep — he/she acts, he/she wins), and backed up by an outstanding supporting cast headed by Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones (both nominated for Oscars) as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, James Spader, Hal Holbrook. Most of all, it is a film filled with awesome dialogue and monologues that could have some clenching their fists and punching the air in triumph.
Daniel Day really is that good. Lincoln is portrayed not as just a great individual but as a stoic man with many flaws, highlighted by his painful interactions with son (Gordon Levitt) and wife (Sally Field). Some have criticized the voice, but like there’s anyone alive who knows what Abe really sounded like; and apparently, the voice matches historical descriptions, so all you haters can go jump.
The problem with Lincoln, especially if you are not American, is that the entire film, more or less, is about a single amendment to the US constitution. And as the 150-minute running-time will tell you, getting a single amendment to a nation’s constitution constitutes a whole lotta work.
Yes, it is one of the most monumental accomplishments in US legal history, and there are times when the process of lobbying for enough votes amid political uncertainty, generates a lot of tension for the audience. But at the end of the day, it’s still about an amendment to the constitution. And this is coming from a former law geek who won awards at university for topping (Australian) constitutional law and the entire freaking law degree (I don’t like to brag, but since you brought it up).
So when it comes down to it, Lincoln is one of those films that you have no choice but to recognise as “great” simply because of the importance of its subject matter, its outstanding performances, and its execution by one of the greatest directors of all time. It ticks the boxes for critics, but as far as pure enjoyment is concerned, I felt the film lacked a certain kick. It’s no such much the lack of physical action as it is the deliberate slow pace and the narrow scope.
By the way, there is not a lot of background exposition, so don’t expect to receive a history lesson at the beginning of the film that will get you up to speed with US constitutional history or Lincoln’s early life. If you don’t know anything about Lincoln the man or the constitution amendment process you will likely be left scratching your head a lot of times.
I sound more negative about the film than I really am only because expectations were so high. Lincoln is a dignified biographical film about possibly the most revered president in US history; a film that educates viewers and tries to tug the right emotional strings. But unless you feel the same amount of passion the filmmakers had for the man or his achievements, you might come away wondering what all the fuss was about.
3.75 stars out of 5