Patient and epic are two words I would rarely use in conjunction, but patient epic is the best way I can describe Steven Spielberg’s towering Lincoln.
When it comes to grandiose, few have the same consistency that Spielberg has. Though it has been some time since he has released an exceptional film rest assured that Spielberg has returned to the form that made him so famous. This is the first reason Lincoln succeeds, in less seasoned hands this movie could have been a long boring mess.
That being said, it is a film that requires patience. Starting the film off with a battle scene, while it works in context, it is the only battle scene in the film. This may lead some to believe that the movie will have a lot more of the civil war depicted, which is not the case.
What the film is however, is a taught, intensive look at one of the countries major civil rights struggles. Based on the book Team of Rivals, the film follows Lincoln through the start of his second term until his death. The majority of the film focuses on Lincoln struggle to get amount of votes necessary to pass the thirteenth amendment.
The second thing that makes Lincoln truly succeed is the masterful portrayal by Daniel Day Lewis. By now most people know that Daniel Day Lewis is in a league of acting all his own. Delving into roles deeper than most dare to, Lewis embodies his roles in a way few actors living or dead has ever achieved. Everything about his performance makes you forget you are watching an actor as your attention draws to him in every scene he graces.
Combining masterful direction with the performance of the year is only two – thirds of the equation. The last thing that makes the movie truly memorable is the powerful screenplay, written by Tony Kushner. Having a two and a half hour dialogue driven epic about Lincoln is something that could have easily become dull and repetitive, but Kushner’s smart, quick and often times very funny screenplay keeps everything moving at speedy pace.
When it comes to the weak links in the chain, Sally Field immediately pops into my mind. While Mary Lincoln is a difficult role to play, she went crazy as hell in her later years. I think that Field could have done a bit of a less stage style performance and gone for a more subtle approach. I also found Joseph Gordon Levitt could have been better utilized as Lincoln’s eldest son.
These few quips aside, the rest of the movie does everything the way you would expect in a Spielberg film. Some fine acting from the supporting cast, particularly Tommy Lee Jones, despite an awful wig. David Straithairn (Good Night and Good Luck) also gives a very focused performance as
Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William H. Seward.
With so much to live up too Lincoln could have easily fallen into, dull, generic, boring or any other number of bad things. Luckily thanks to powerful acting, writing and directing, and only a few minor faults. Lincoln towers as one of the best films of the year, and one of Spielberg’s all time best.
Final Score 9/10