Monday, December 3, 2012


Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Tony Kushner and Doris Kearn Goodwin
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David  Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Synopsis: Oh, you know, just the story one of the most important pieces of legislation in this nation's history. No big deal.

Director Steven Spielberg is a really interesting director. To think about the types of movies that he has done, it's amazing to see where his career has taken him. In the span of the last two years, he has done a (relatively) cheesy Oscar bait movie, a groundbreaking motion-capture animation movie, and then this year, we have another rather gorgeous yet Oscar-bait-ish movie in LINCOLN. I could not help but enjoy the hell out of this movie. It had such a good mix of politics and drama. I'm not sure if Jonesy is going to rock a review, but I can tell you I liked it a whole more than she did.

So let's get the biggest thing out of the way. Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal one of the most beloved President's of this nation's history was just marvelous. I was talking with Jonesy after we saw it about how I'm afraid that Lewis' performances are being dismissed in the media and in reviews a bit. I get the sentiment that people just always expect an amazing performance out of him and anything less than would be a crime, but then there's not enough praise once he does an amazing performance. It's like unless we have him freaking out during a whole movie (THERE WILL BE BLOOD), there's not as much praise. Either way, I have to say that his performance is riveting in how quiet and subtle it is. Day-Lewis is known to be a big performance actor, and I believe this is his best performance to date. He's not stomping around musing about the condition of the human soul, instead he quietly shuffles and tells some rather funny anecdotes as he tries to get the 13th Amendment passed at a critical time in our nation’s history.

That's also something that I found great about the movie is that it wasn't some great testament on the humble beginnings of a famous figure as most biopic-type movies tend to be. It focuses on just a very specific period of his life from January 1865 to his (SPOILER ALERT) death. This allows us to, in a very interesting way, demystify this very mythical figure in American history. I like how the film focuses so much on just how shady politics are and always have been and it reminds us that Lincoln was part of that shady system as well. And what makes it a little be scary is to think that history hanged in the balance thanks to a few shady politicians.
It's funny to think that that while watching LINCOLN, I thought quite a bit of the famous A Song of Ice and Fire sage from author George R.R. Martin or Game of Thrones as it's known to a lot of people. One of the more consistent overarching themes of this series is the carelessness that people in power show towards the people that they rule and will start conflicts that matter only to them. These conflicts have huge life or death consequences for the people that serve them such as the knights, their servants or the common people, and how many people die because of these conflicts. This is what feels like is happening in Lincoln, and I found it very interesting how a lot of the politicians involved, Lincoln included, put lives at risk at the pursuit of their agenda. That was a minor but very interesting detail that I liked about the movie. It was not a lame glorification or "realistic" look at the President, but it just showed the reality of the politics.

I have to make mention of the amazing supporting cast, mostly because it's so damn big.  Between Sally Fields, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon Levitt, I'd say that's a pretty amazing cast to see. And within their roles, they all did great jobs. I'm glad to see John Hawkes not be a creepy dude, and for James Spader to not be having sex with someone in bondage. But the highlights for me were Tommy Lee Jones as a hilariously sassy Thaddeus Stevens. He pulls his weight as a very unlikely and unconventional Republican who Lincoln butted heads with before. David Strathairn, who I mostly know as a supporting player, is great as Lincoln's Secretary of State and was a good counterpoint to Day-Lewis' idealism. And even though I hate to admit it, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the weakest part of the movie. I'm not sure what his deal is with picking the "next in line" type of roles this year, but it felt really useless. And what's worse is that his presence never paid off in plot or emotionally. 

I'm not always keen on Oscar baits, but I always will be positively biased towards Spielberg's Oscar baits. LINCOLN was fantastically acted and made politics feel so suspenseful and interesting in a way that has not happened since IN THE LOOP. Out of all of the movies out right now, this is the movie to see. 

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