Movie Review

Movie Review – Lincoln


Ok. So this film is a very loooooooonnnnnnng historical drama about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th (thanks Wikipedia) President of the United States, and his effort to legally overthrow slavery in the last months of the American Civil War. Essentially the movie follows Lincoln as he simultaneously struggles to attend to his family’s demands, the demands of the cabinet (given his desire to get the Emancipation Proclamation passed) and the pressure of the war.

First off, this movie should come with a BIG warning: ONLY WATCH THIS IF YOU’RE AMERICAN! But even if you’re American, I suggest you think twice before viewing it. Unless of course you’re a high school teacher and need to take up some – I mean a lot – of time in history class.

In fact, so turgid was this bloated and self-important turkey of a film that I was truly relieved when Lincoln got assassinated (not a spoiler ‘coz it’s history) and the movie ended. Don’t get me wrong, I like the historical figure that is Abraham Lincoln and I think he did great work (and slavery was totally horrendous of course!) but this is just a shockingly bad movie. (And no, I’m not kidding).

It is true that Daniel Day-Lewis gives a damn fine…eh…impersonation of Lincoln; but it is not an earth-shattering stampede of a performance that completely floors you (and this is exactly what the film presumes it’s giving you). So well done Daniel but no, not Golden Globe worthy, I’m sorry. (Jesus, he’s gonna get the Oscar isn’t he…?)

Cold on Daniel’s heels is Sally Field with her mind-boggling performance as Lincoln’s ‘complex’ wife, Mary Todd Lincoln a.k.a. the First Lady. This is the most shocking example of over-acting I have seen in years (totally Oscar-worthy then!) It’s comically bad. I promise. And it’s even more shocking to think that Spielberg directed her in this way and thought it was a good performance.

Actually, the whole film feels excessively theatrical and not really very measured at all. And this is half the problem: the scale, gravitas and harsh (but what should be ultimately moving) reality of the historically epic situation this film purports to convey is entirely suffocated (rather than enhanced) by the actors’ over-serious theatricality.

In fact, so caricatural are the performances that it is a truly refreshing experience when Joseph Gorden-Levitt, who plays Licoln’s son Robert, suddenly appears and walks up a corridor and into a room with determination. “Finally, salvation! A REAL film star!” I even caught myself thinking in quiet disbelief when I saw his youthful, charismatic flesh breeze by the screen.

And Christ almighty that really says it all doesn’t it? If Joseph Gorden-Levitt comes off like the Adonis-king of the acting world you know that everyone else must be truly past their on-screen acting-technique sell-by dates. So I think it’s time to just say it: “Dear Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Day-Lewis, Ms. Field and, of course, Mr. Tommy Lee Jones (and maybe Mr. James Spader too), please stop acting in and/or making stylistically excessive films which unintentionally border on parody!”

Verdict: One thumb (fully) down, one thumb (three-quarters way) down.

Matthew Barks

Categories: Movie Review, Movies

3 replies »

  1. Yours is a very youthful review…but not everyone is young, nor will you be in the not so distant future. As a more mature (meaning age wise) movie goer I loved the film, and thought the performances were fantastic; though I did think at times Sally Field went a bit overboard. When it comes to acting I like the theatrical style of acting; when done well it gives much more character information at any moment than does naturalistic acting. Heck, naturalistic acting isn’t much more than watching your friends in your own home…I can watch that for free. I want the actors to give me more than just that when I am watching a film, but to each his own. My only warning is don’t get too caught up in wanting all things to be youthful…your time in that segment passes very quickly.

    • Hi Sam,
      I can see how the last two paragraphs could come across as ageist, but that’s not the way I meant it. It is more of a stylistic thing, in how everything was delivered, I just found it over-the-top and alienating – hammy even (and that is a matter of personal taste really).
      But I think I will be one of the few to have this experience of Lincoln.
      Bar Sally Field, I essentially believe everyone could have been better directed – and toned it down a notch – in order to make a rather superb and engaging film.
      It will be a critially aclaimed box-office smash regardless! Thanks for your comment though, I just wanted to make clear that the age of the actors and director etc. was not the issue for me but rather the stylistic excess (which others will clearly love – just not me).

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