In my quest to get acquainted with this year’s Oscar-nominated features, I eventually got round to seeing “Lincoln”. Under different circumstances I would most likely refuse to review this film or even comment on it, but the fact it’s generally considered the most powerful contender for this year’s Academy Awards forces me to speak up. It won’t be long, I hope. I just have to stand up and say the following:
With all due respect Mr Spielberg, your latest feat is simply horrible.
There, I said it. I realize it sounds almost sacrilegious in the current climate with Spielberg being praised and Daniel Day-Lewis scoring all the gongs for his portrayal of The Great Abe Lincoln, but let’s face it – “Lincoln” as a whole is just boring. And by the way, for those of you who think that whatever Spielberg puts together is pure gold, it’s not necessarily true. “Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull”, “Jurassic Park 2” and “A.I.” particularly spring to mind when ‘Spielbergian’ duds are in question. Well, maybe it’s a bit much to compare “Lincoln” to these three <coughs> achievements, because technically speaking, it’s well put together by wonderful actors, well shot and executed. It lacks a lot, though, too much I’d say.
In fact, I’d say that Day-Lewis once again proves he’s a force of nature when it comes to immersing in the character and I will be saddened deeply if he doesn’t get the Oscar hat-trick this year. His methodical and professional portrayal of Abe is by far the only thing that carries the film. Having Tommy Lee Jones as a fantastic sidekick doesn’t exactly hurt, and if it wasn’t for this dynamic duo, I wouldn’t care about “Lincoln” at all. This way, I care only a little, because I firmly believe that one man – even a powerhouse like Day-Lewis – won’t make a masterpiece out of this otherwise mediocre film.
So, for those of you who are not aware, “Lincoln” basically focuses on the last six months of Lincoln’s life where he brought about one of the most important pieces of legislation in US history – the abolition of slavery, ended The American Civil War and met his untimely demise by assassination. It would seem to be a perfect film material because of the sheer gravity of events to be portrayed combined with almost legendary status of the main characters involved. Yes, of course – on paper. What came out of it was an excruciatingly long and boring history lesson. I don’t know, maybe the American audience would appreciate it more due to having a hopefully more emotional bond with their own history. For me however, it’s a lot of talking with no drama, with the occasional patriotic note. Nothing really happens in the film and I couldn’t care about anything that transpired on screen. The allegedly fantastic material for a story – breaking the shackles of oppression – was laid out with no emotion, with too many characters, and in the end “Lincoln” descended into a second-rate courtroom drama. Quite frankly, the only thought I remember was rocking around my brain as I was watching “Lincoln” was ‘wow, Day-Lewis really brought it again’. And even after a while it got a bit stale because, honestly, there’s a limit to how many times one man can say ‘wow’.
Mr Spielberg, you should have known better. You should have known that “Lincoln” doesn’t have enough oomph to make me sit on the edge of my seat. What am I thinking; it doesn’t have enough power to keep my eyes on the screen for that long. It’s boring and uneventful and in a nutshell, it comes across as attempted hagiography with a touch of self-indulgence that should not have even been there in the first place. While I do get the need to pay due homage to one of the most important figures in American history, attempting it in this quasi-religious way is most certainly not the way to go. As a result, I was shown a one-dimensional story where mighty and stalwart (and flat as comic-book characters) paladins re-enact a piece of history that – while important to remember – turns out to be simply mundane and monotonous. And adding the patriotic tune to the symphony doesn’t always help.