January 14. 2013
Ever since I saw the first poster of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln", with the intense Daniel Day-Lewis in excellent Lincoln make-up, I immediately knew this would already be seriously in the running during the Oscar Awards. And this was confirmed recently when this film garnered Oscar nominations in 12 categories. This is really a must-see film.
This film was only about the political (and some personal) travails Lincoln experienced as he was trying to pass the 13th Amendment or the Emancipation Proclamation through Congress. This is not a biographical film at all as I was expecting. There were no scenes of his birth, childhood, education, rise in politics, etc. I felt this movie was deceptively titled.
The technical aspects of this film were excellent as the cinematography, production design, costumes and make-up (not nominated!) were flawless. The color palette was muted to give it an authentic historical feel. Spielberg's obsessive attention to details and sentimentality, known from all his former films, was in full display here.
The acting was so perfectly attuned to the time period the actors were set in. Daniel Day Lewis IS Abraham Lincoln! He was amazingly real, I did not see him as acting as much as he was being Lincoln. I initially felt Sally Field was miscast, but she eventually redeemed herself in her effective portrayal of troubled Mary Todd Lincoln. Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens had his big moment when he delivered a fiery speech against those opposing the amendment.
I think the main problem with this film was that it dealt with events which entailed showing people merely involved in a lot of long-winded conversations. The whole film was about 2 and a half hours long, and more than half of that time was just showing unknown politicians talking about their pro or con views about the proposed Amendment. Admittedly for non- Americans (and maybe some Americans too as I can read on some reviews here), these scenes will seem very dry, tedious and meaningless.
I was disappointed that this was not exactly the biography of Abraham Lincoln that I thought it would be. So gone was the opportunity of comparing the real way Lincoln grew up from the version I learned from another Lincoln film released in 2012 where the good President was a Vampire Hunter. Ironic too that we also did not also see the assassination we all knew would happen. Spielberg decided to present that event in another way, which I'm sure disappointed many people, including me.