Lincoln (2013)

LincolnAware that his Emancipation Proclamation might be discarded come the end of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day Lewis) tries once again to pass a controversial thirteenth amendment through the United States House of Representatives with an eye to finally ridding the country of slavery once and for all. Faced with an increasingly desperate Confederate army and a belligerent and bigoted opposing party, Lincoln must also work to unite his fractured family before it’s too late.

Having spent the summer dodging horses and slaying vampires, the 16th President of the United States of America takes it down a key for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Eschewing a full biography to instead focus on the president’s attempts to end the Civil War and abolish slavery (and the conflict between the two endeavours), the film has attracted substantial awards attention, including twelve academy awards nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.

The award that Lincoln perhaps most deserves come February 24th, 2013, is Best Actor In A Leading Role. It has become almost sacrilegious to criticise the  acclaimed Daniel Day Lewis, particularly in the wake of his Oscar-winning turn as Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. His portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is assured, measured and perhaps even definitive; the way he disappears into such a recogniseable and distinctive character goes beyond mere imitation and emulation. If Spielberg lost his way in the uncanny valley during The Adventures Of Tintin, he’s finally reached the other side.

The problem is that he inadvertently shows everyone else up in the process. There isn’t a single dud performance in the whole of Lincoln, and yet every frame that doesn’t feature Lewis/Lincoln’s unique profile somehow seems sorely wasted. The film’s director even appears to agree, as despite the calibre of the supported cast very few of the periferal characters are ever given the opportunity to compete. While this is of course to be expected in a film based on the life of one man, you can’t help but sympathise with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sally Field and Lee Pace. Only Tommy Lee Jones comes close to stealing the film from its presidential protagonist.

But while Lincoln has all of the hallmarks of an Oscar nominee, this is as much to its detriment as to its credit. The film is well acted, beautifully shot and sumptuously scored, while its subject matter rings of importance and worthiness. But it is also crushingly dense, dialogue-heavy and at least half an hour too long. It also makes precious few allowances for an international audience, leaving anyone not au fait with American politics to piece together the plot in their own time. While audiences shouldn’t be spoon fed, neither should they be left to research the inner workings of Congress either. Lincoln’s home-life is given relatively short shrift, and as such it is the politicking which is most responsible for narrative drive and tension.

While I’d be happy to see Lincoln pick up performances for its performances, score and costume design, then, I do not believe that it deserves to win best film. In a category boasting at least four overlong, overwritten and over-American talking-points, however, it’s probably one of the lesser evils.



About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Lincoln (2013)

  1. Pingback: January 2013 – Buzzards’ guts, man! « popcornaddict

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