Referring to earlier posts about the prohibition style of 2013, it seems that the American Civil War and the theme of slavery are rattling some cages during the 2012-3 awards season. After the colourful and utterly entertaining Django, you have a more sombre and thorough take on the era with Spielberg’s epic, Lincoln.
The epic biopic with Daniel Day-Lewis in the eponymous role sees Lincoln trying to outlaw slavery while dealing with the American Civil War and strong opposition in the House of Representatives.
Director Spielberg is obviously trying to deviate from his trademark sci-fi blockbusters by revisiting his dramatic side, which was highlighted when he made award-winning films Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. Given the last film about Abraham Lincoln featured vampires, this film is notably lacking in action (yes, I know the former is a work of fiction!). This may sound like a ridiculous comparison but seeing as this film is set during one of the most prolific wars in history, it seems that the most action you will see during the lengthy running time actually takes place within the first ten minutes of the film. That’s it – the rest of Lincoln is just talking.
At least in Schindler’s List, there are moments that evoke some kind of emotion. But in this, besides the short sense of victory towards the end, there is next to nothing.
What might not help is the intricate detail used in the lengthy monologues delivered by Day-Lewis. Considering how some modern audiences are seemingly naive about historical facts, the terminology, the constant debate of politics and social agenda may not even pluck a mental string (remember what happened with Titanic?)
The performances, however, and Spielberg’s attention to detail make this an incredibly epic labour of love for the director. Production dates back to 1999, with unfortunate mishaps (ahem, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and bad timing delaying its development. Day-Lewis, as always, delivers a powerhouse performance. His mannerisms and the way he dedicates himself to become the character easily overshadows the rest of the cast. Tommy Lee Jones is watchable as Stevens, although his role may not have delivered enough to merit his nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Sally Field’s almost shrill performance as Mary Todd Lincoln shows the same amount of ambition as her on-screen husband, but her determination in trying to match Lewis’ performance is a bit..too much.
The aim to explore the finer spots of American history is credible, not to mention another guaranteed Academy Award for Daniel Day-Lewis, but Lincoln‘s overwhelmingly immersive detail will easily lose audiences uninterested in politics.