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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Lincoln (2012)
Lincoln (2012)
Touchstone // PG-13 // November 9, 2012
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted November 9, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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Steven Spielberg is one of the biggest names in the entire movie industry. He's made some of the most well-known films of all time. Therefore, whenever his name is placed in a movie trailer, moviegoers are almost instantly interested to see what he's releasing next. Last year, he directed War Horse, which was nominated for six Oscars. While the feature received a lot of praise, I found it to be overrated. In 2012, Spielberg has directed a historical drama by the name of Lincoln. Unfortunately, this widely celebrated director isn't taking any risks with his new feature.

This film follows the nation's 16th President, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), in his final months in office. The nation is divided as the Civil War continues to rage. Lincoln begins attempting to unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come. The struggle happens in and out of Lincoln's own cabinet, as he continues to try and get the amendment passed.

Tony Kushner's screenplay is a mixed bag. There are numerous scenes where he conveys his mastery of writing cohesive dialogue. The relations between the characters are incredibly genuine and his interest in this subject matter is clearly high. He's able to convey a lot of the family's past in an intelligent way without repeating loads of information we already know. Unfortunately, the pacing is absolutely dreadful. Lincoln moves at the speed of a snail. Those who are fascinated by politics and history might still find the slow progression to be interesting, but the average moviegoer will find themselves dozing off, as I did. History was never a passion of mine, but the plot is stretched so thin that gaping holes have been left, which really hurts the flow of the story. Tony Kushner wasn't able to create an inventive and lively adaptation of this incredibly crucial part of American history. Even though the dialogue is exceptional, it isn't enough to save the tedious pacing and inability to entirely engage its audience in the plot. Large portions of Lincoln are dry, which will be hit and miss with different viewers.

The film holds a relatively serious tone, although Kushner's humor saves numerous scenes. There are some laugh-out-loud lines that fit into this film very well. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) is surely the funniest character in the entire movie. Each time he has screen time, expect some witty and humorous dialogue. This once again references Tony Kushner's incredible talent when it comes to writing dialogue. Once the second act rolls around, the story has dragged so much that a lot of the initial interest is lost. We all know the story of Abraham Lincoln and what ultimately happened to him, but this portrayal is far too conventional. It's undeniably tacky and contains the type of cheesiness you'd expect from a made-for-TV movie. Writer Tony Kushner has undeniable talent, but this script could have used a second mind to help shape the story.

Lincoln has an outstanding cast that will impress you whether or not you enjoy the overall film. Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't just deliver Abraham Lincoln's dialogue, but he transforms into the character. He manages to deliver such a powerful performance, you'll wonder how any other actor could possibly be in this role. Sally Field is excellent as Mary Todd Lincoln. She expresses the emotions of this historical role very well. Outside of the Lincoln family, Tommy Lee Jones is phenomenal as Thaddeus Stevens. He's convincing and will have audiences anticipating his next scene, as he shines every time he's on the screen. There are multiple other high-profile actors in supporting roles, such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln, who possess these characters in such an incredible way. Steven Spielberg has done an incredible job with these actors in order to help them dig underneath the surface of these historical figures.

This isn't your typical Steven Spielberg venture when it comes to the visuals. He's known for his large-scale sets with bombastic soundtracks. Lincoln takes a much more subtle approach. The Civil War itself is only shown in the very first scene of the movie. From that moment forward, the film tells the story of what was happening politically at the time. The cinematography is tasteful and even beautiful at times. As far as the score goes, it's hokey and doesn't fit at all, which really takes viewers out of the film. It gives these scenes an undeniably tacky atmosphere, which isn't very easy to shake off. Other than the score, the technical portion is solid. Spielberg has taken a more subtle approach with his visuals, which proves to be very effective.

After all of the hype, I really wanted to like Lincoln. It's disappointing that this historical drama is boring for the majority of its running time. The plot has been stretched as thin as it possibly could have. The running time is two and a half hours, but it feels much longer. This is a crucial part of American history that isn't told very effectively by Tony Kushner. However, the script isn't completely rotten, as the dialogue and characterizations are top-notch. This is highly supported by a group of Oscar-worthy performances, especially those by Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, and Sally Field as Mary. Lincoln has its moments, but there aren't enough to compensate for the amount of waiting audiences have to endure. It's not worth paying full ticket price for, but it's worth a rental.

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