LINCOLN

Words: CHARLES MCINTYRE
February 16, 2013

Directed by: Steven Spielberg Released: January 25th It was while watching the ending scenes of Munich, popcorn spilling out of my open mouth, that I made the mental oath never to watch a historical epic by Spielberg again. Seeing Eric Bana, mid-thrust – and presumably orgasm – crying out in horror as he imagines the […]


Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Released: January 25th

It was while watching the ending scenes of Munich, popcorn spilling out of my open mouth, that I made the mental oath never to watch a historical epic by Spielberg again. Seeing Eric Bana, mid-thrust – and presumably orgasm – crying out in horror as he imagines the Munich massacre, gunfire illuminating his contorted, sweaty face, was enough to put me off for life. Over-sentimentalising his films has always been Spielberg’s downfall, but terrorism-inspired cum shots seem outlandish even for him.

Remembering his successes, I went to see Spielberg’s Lincoln, with the sincere hope that I’d be spared from witnessing some kind of Civil War orgy at the White House. Lincoln charts a refreshingly specific period of time in Lincoln’s presidency – the final four months of his life in which he passed the thirteenth amendment to the constitution. The main ‘action’ is that of political discussion between Lincoln, his cabinet and family. Daniel-Day Lewis was not first choice for the role of Abe. Originally Liam Neeson was chosen, but eventually dropped out after the film suffered significant delays due to multiple script rewrites. Daniel-Day Lewis acts well (as can be expected), but his performance is focused too heavily on portraying Lincoln’s rational, ‘humble’ side. Neeson’s Germanic features and stature would have been more suitable for the part in physical terms, but also the broodiness and dark charisma he brought to Schindler’s List would have lent itself to the dichotomy of Lincoln’s character, which is subsequently under-explored in Lewis’s performance. In terms of direction, the film is a tour-de-force for Spielberg, who returns to historical recreation with deft ability. The performances within the film are captured expertly, yet remain muted enough to negate the dreaded ‘Spielberg Sentiment’. That said, Lincoln preserves a power to move its audience with subtlety, and a blissful lack of patriotism, so often found in previous Spielberg films. The greatest performance of the film belongs, unlikely enough, to Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the part of a radical civil rights advocate Thaddeus Stevens. The film’s greatest moments also belong to him; in particular his inspirational exchanges in the House of Representatives. Other impressive performances are given by Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife and Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair.

Irritatingly, the far-too-regularly featured Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a brief and pointless turn as Lincoln’s son Robert in the absence of Spielberg’s usual ‘man crush’ Shia LaBeouf, who Spielberg unflatteringly described as ‘the next Tom Hanks’… Lincoln signifies a change in Spielberg’s tack – long overdue as it may be. He has tapped into the euphoric political atmosphere generated from Obama’s election (and reelection), replicating it dutifully through the mammoth achievements of Abraham Lincoln. Almost as though in awareness of his recent blunders, Spielberg has pointedly avoided his past clichés. It is likely that he was at least partly inspired by the HBO mini series John Adams, which set the tone for subsequent Presidential Biopics. Not an orgy in sight.

8/10


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