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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Guest Review: Lincoln


Guest Review: Lincoln

When it comes to the 12:25 showing of Lincoln that I watched earlier today, I could rattle off a little grocery list of flaws about it, and maybe I still will a little bit later on. I could call it Oscar-Bait, roll my eyes and cross my arms. I could even claim that Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t human, and therefore should be disqualified from earning the Oscar for best actor this coming winter. Instead, I’ll go ahead and say this. Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, is the best movie I have seen all year.

I should establish something up front here. I was one of the disgruntled masses that saw the trailer for this movie and a huge exclamation point sprouted up over my head. I don’t know what it was about the trailer that bugged me. Maybe it was the cuts to black every half second, maybe it was the schizophrenic soundtrack that changed tone every time the scene changed. I don’t know. I think I was afraid of this movie being something like War Horse, and I’m pleased to say that it was anything but.

This is not acting. This is channeling.
Lincoln is a film about a country nearly as foreign to us in our contemporary situation as it was and is to a lot of other nationalities. Watching this movie as an American (and indeed, as an American currently serving in the armed forces) was nothing short of a revelation. It pitched itself as Oscar-Bait, which was a pretty dumb thing to do since it’s anything but. This film is an important one, and we know this by the time ten minutes of it have rolled around.

I think the biggest problem with this film is the trailer. You read that right. The trailer undersold this film. It seemed like a trailer for a different movie altogether - though if you asked me to figure exactly what kind of film the trailer was for, I'm not exactly sure. A cheesy one. Lincoln, on the other hand, felt more like a Broadway or West End play captured on film. Maybe that's because some of the lead actors (Daniel Day-Lewis and Jared Harris) are from the UK. Who knows.

I could write pages about Daniel Day-Lewis and his performance as America’s most beloved president. Instead, however, I’ll go ahead and relegate myself to saying this – watching this film, I felt like I was sitting in a room with Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know what crazy things Lewis did to prepare for this role, and frankly I don’t particularly care to know, because that would dispel at least part of the illusion. All I know is that his portrayal of Lincoln is something I was lucky to see. This Lincoln is kind, warm, comforting, polite, soft spoken, and perhaps most surprisingly – very, very funny.

Thank you. All of you.
I think part of what makes Lincoln the film that it is can be traced to the performances offered up by its wonderful cast. I usually hate films with ensemble casts, since most of the time they seem to mute each other out. (See The Thin Red Line for an example of this too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen syndrome.) Lincoln somehow manages to dodge this plague, bringing in some of our finest thespians in roles that seem tailored to them. Tommy Lee Jones is at the absolute top of his game here, providing the audience with a figure we at once love and are wary of. Sally Field is wonderful (though sometimes seems a little strained) as Mrs. Lincoln, and Jared Harris is a walking embodiment of Ulysses Grant. Some have complained about his accent. I didn't notice.

I'm the one with the hair.
I was able to speak with some of my fellow audience members after this film let out and as a result got to canvas their reactions. Interestingly, we were all surprised by the same thing – this film is mostly talking, without much “happening” in the way of 21st Century Hollywood. I think a lot of people might find issue with this lack of action, but I found it refreshing. I was nice to see a film that relied purely on its writing, its photography and its acting to imbue it with a sense of importance. It was nice to see a period piece about an American icon that was so grounded in reality that when it did touch on the extraordinary circumstances surrounding him, the times felt real.

I’m no history buff, but I’ve done a fair bit of research in Abraham Lincoln, and while I cannot speak for the history professors at Columbia University, I can speak for myself – I thought this film did a great job of portraying Washington as it was in Lincoln’s day...and indeed, how it still is, in some ways. This look at government is beautiful because it shows us the humanity behind it, but also reminds us that government can and should work for the people – no matter how difficult the road to success can sometimes be.

That this film arrives at a time of such political discord is, I think, important. Movies like Lincoln are more than just your run of the mill popcorn fare. They are messages, a call to arms from another time, reminders that we, the American people (though young) have it in us both the capacity and the obligation to be strong. So much unhappiness today can be resolved by remembering our common identity – something I feel a lot of us have forgotten about. If you like history, if you adore film, if you love great actors performing tremendous roles – go see this movie. I for one will be returning to see it again, if only to spend time with that greatest of American heroes for just a couple hours more.

The Bottom Line: Poignant, important, relevant and fueled by a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Daniel Day Lewis (unless, of course, you’re Daniel Day Lewis and performances like this come around once every three years or so), Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is worth every caricature-graced penny.

Oscar Possibilities:
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Picture

Overall Rating: 9.8/10

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At November 19, 2012 at 4:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review, I'll have to go see it. I've heard loads of good things about this film. :)

At November 19, 2012 at 4:46 PM , Blogger Ries said...

It's amazing. Go see it ASAP!

At November 20, 2012 at 7:53 AM , Anonymous Tom said...

I don't think I've seen a truer depiction of grief than the interactions between Abe and Mary Todd. Those scenes destroy me.

At November 20, 2012 at 4:26 PM , Blogger Ries said...

That's an awesome point, Tom. The scenes you mentioned here are some of the greatest acting I've seen on film...ever, I think. Seeing Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field soundboard off each other was truly remarkable.

At November 21, 2012 at 12:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I really want to see this movie.

At November 21, 2012 at 5:23 AM , Blogger Ries said...

You most assuredly SHOULD! :)

At November 23, 2012 at 5:29 PM , Anonymous Belinda said...

Great review, I am all of a sudden feeling quite patriotic :)
And excited to see the movie, such high praise from you must
mean its Amazing!
P.S: I like your profile pic ;)

At November 23, 2012 at 6:49 PM , Blogger Ries said...

I'm so happy you liked the review! The movie has a way of inspiring patriotism in most people that see it, so hopefully you can get out to it. I'm glad you like my pic - Nick did a good job with it. :)


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