REVIEW: Lincoln


600full-lincoln-posterJust by judging the title alone, Lincoln became a potentially huge project that required a substantial amount of sophisticated figures in front and behind the camera. The legendary Steven Spielberg, arguably the most iconic filmmaker in the history of cinema, takes charge of directing another war drama, after Schindler’s List in 1993, that deals with complex human emotions on a grand scale. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis, arguably the greatest living actor, makes a triumphant return to the screen to play Abraham Lincoln. Nevertheless, considering that Lincoln is an extremely large film with a lot of history behind it, it works with outstanding performances from the ensemble cast and superb direction from Spielberg but occasionally had a few issues with narrative structure.

After already succeeding with his World War II masterpiece Schindler’s List, Spielberg returns to direct another historical bio-pic about a human symbol who changed the world. Throughout his career, Spielberg has handled all genres but has almost always provided that grand scale of raw emotion and realism behind them. Along with superb cinematography, art direction and costume design, Spielberg literally sent the audience back into the Civil War and managed to grasp the dark tone of its time setting in a realistic, truthful format. Therefore, Spielberg is arguably the only one who could have pulled off Lincoln.

Just like many bio-pics and other stories related on history, Lincoln has a story where audiences know the beginning and the end, but has a complex plot in-between. Lincoln is meant to tell the audience about the final four months of Lincoln’s life before his assassination and perhaps the final few weeks of the Civil War. With this in mind, the political dialogue and the substantial amount of characters from different sides and organizations can make Lincoln hard to emotionally engage with. However, that did not always matter because it was merely a build-up to the obvious finale and just aroused curiosity of how Spielberg was going to handle it. As well as being based on true stories, Lincoln is also based on a biography so reading about these events before seeing this film is highly recommended.

Daniel Day-Lewis has limitations as an actor when selecting films to star in. In 20 years, he starred in approximately 9 films, 2 of those which he won the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor. Although originally handed over to Liam Neeson, Day-Lewis literally becomes Lincoln in another breath-taking performance. The nature of the character was power and symbolism and Daniel Day-Lewis signifies this through his own powerful qualities as an actor. The audience gained a deeper understanding beyond Lincoln’s presidential status where we got an analysis of Lincoln as a human being like the rest of us. Nevertheless, Day-Lewis delivers another one of his gifted, trademark performances that should gain him his third Academy Award for Best Leading Actor.

Although the film focuses primarily on Lincoln and Daniel Day-Lewis almost carries it by himself, he is supported by a group of veteran actors in memorable performances. First, Tommy Lee Jones is absolutely perfect in a stand-out performance as Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republican Congressional Leader. He represents the bitterness of human beings within a political society and Lee Jones’s general physical approach has a somewhat cold touch and it worked brilliantly as Stevens. Furthermore, Sally Field also illustrated her strengths as an actress as she took on the role of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. It was her most vital performance in many years and she, along with Daniel Day-Lewis, provided the power and the sense of support within each other to win the Civil War and abolish slavery once and for all. David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have important roles in Lincoln too and make their presence worth praising.

Evidently, the immensely heavy load of dialogue within Lincoln does not make it an easy film for audiences to watch for 150 minutes. In that sense, its primary target audiences would be those who going in with an open mind or ones with a strong view of the facts during that period. Therefore, it is complex and unusual for those expecting another Spielberg adventure within a historical setting. Nevertheless, as a film, Lincoln works with the technical praise going particularly to the cinematography and music but is also a bio-pic, quite a rare one today at that, which features some of the greatest performances from actors that capture almost exact resemblances, physically and emotionally, of the real-life figures that they were portraying.


~ by SJMJ91 on 24/02/2013.

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