Lincoln parked

Rating: **1/2

| November 16, 2012

DIRECTED BY Steven Spielberg
STARS Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field

Moviegoers purchasing tickets to Steven Spielberg's Lincoln will be forgiven for feeling as if they're stepping into a wax museum rather than a theater auditorium.

Daniel Day-Lewis as the Prez - DREAMWORKS & FOX
  • DreamWorks & Fox
  • Daniel Day-Lewis as the Prez

Spielberg, who has been planning this project for numerous years, has meticulously, painstakingly recreated an entire era, powdered wigs and all. He has also assembled an impressive cast to fill the roles of the historical figures who were part of Abraham Lincoln's world, whether on the home front or in the political sphere. To complete the illusion, he has tasked Tony Kushner to fashion a script that leaves no grandiloquent declaration untouched. For all its good intentions and spurts of innovation, though, the film never really comes alive as living, breathing history. Instead, it too often plays like an audio reading of the Congressional Record, with some unwieldy domestic scenes tossed in for good measure.

Rather than the comprehensive biopic suggested by the title, Lincoln instead focuses on the 16th president's final days in office, as he works hard to pass an amendment that would outlaw slavery and involuntary servitude. The film tracks every step of this process, showing how Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) would use any means, some bordering on impeachable, to secure passage. Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) works tirelessly on his behalf, playing devil's advocate when necessary but always showing his support; also fighting for the cause is the garrulous Representative Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones, chewing the scenery almost as much as he did as Batman Forever's Two-Face).

The political sequences alter between fascinating and fastidious to a fault, yet they're preferable to the shoehorned segments centering on Lincoln's relationships with wife Mary Todd (a shrill Sally Field) and grown son Robert (a wasted Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Day-Lewis' portrayal is, as expected, excellent, and he remains watchable even when the scene around him collapses (the prologue, in which soldiers both black and white recite the Gettysburg Address back to him, is embarrassing in its heavy-handedness). Yet because Day-Lewis is playing a figurehead, an icon, rather than a complete individual — it's amazing how little we learn about the man himself — even his portrayal ultimately comes up short. Lincoln is a notable achievement, yet this often arid undertaking would have been better had Spielberg decreed that there will be blood in its characterizations.


Comments (19)

Showing 1-19 of 19

This reviewer is a hack. Lincoln exceeded my expectations which were quite high.

report 8 likes, 51 dislikes   
Posted by Radical Democrat on 11/17/2012 at 11:05 PM

A hack is right. Lincoln is superb.

report 6 likes, 46 dislikes   
Posted by john on 11/18/2012 at 12:30 AM

Brunson delivers an accurate if unpopular reading of this film. There are many incredible things about it, including Day's performance, but if you're not into political diatribe, the film can be a bit of bore. 2.5 is right on the money.

report 49 likes, 5 dislikes   
Posted by polecat on 11/18/2012 at 9:19 AM

I didn't understand the comment about "powdered wigs" which went out of fashion among politicians decades before the events in Lincoln. The only wig in the story line belonged to Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and it wasn't powdered. It was black.

This review is weak and lacking in insight.

report 18 likes, 40 dislikes   
Posted by Jim Heaphy on 11/18/2012 at 2:19 PM

Thank God someone is speaking some truth about this relentlessly cheesy movie, buried under a slow moving, pretentious script and emotionally manuplulatie . . everty thing else. What keeps the tedious film from being engaging is the unanswered question of what the hell was the civil war about if half of the Union was against abolishing slavery. Seems this could have been dealt wight economically in this windbag of a script and let the audience move forward with the momentum of the story, such as it was

report 48 likes, 14 dislikes   
Posted by Kimberly Clark on 11/18/2012 at 6:49 PM

"an audio reading Congressional record"...."never becomes a living breathing history"...?
You are a lazy thinker, Mr. Brunson. The language of the 19th century is too"unwieldy" for you, you are not used to thinking and feeling at the same time. It's either or for you: either to be swayed by emotion or do some rote mental processing of the facts, and so as the language becomes a bit intricate you can't stand it and can't keep up with your feelings. Perhaps it's time to stop watching movies and read something "hard".

report 8 likes, 55 dislikes   
Posted by DD on 11/18/2012 at 9:18 PM

Wow, who ever would have thought the Lincoln fans would be more whiny and juvenile than the Twilight fans?

report 53 likes, 6 dislikes   
Posted by Bruce R. on 11/19/2012 at 2:21 AM

Not enough aliens or vampires in the film? Perhaps an intense carriage chase down candle-lit cobblestone streets? I thought the film did an excellent job of making Lincoln come alive as both a man and the president. It's often overlooked how arduous a task it can be to make history seem engaging, especially around well-known figures and periods. Rarely do I feel both entertained and informed by a movie, and "Lincoln" did a splendid job on both accounts.

report 7 likes, 44 dislikes   
Posted by gravityforsaken on 11/20/2012 at 5:24 AM

You precisely captured my feelings with your description of the prologue as "embarrassing in it's heavy-handedness". Indeed, Sally Field's performance was more shrill and obnoxious than realistically mentally ill.

Predictably, most of the abolitionists, including Lincoln, came off as a little too like-able. Lincoln slaps his son in a socially-acceptable manner, showing off his edgy side at an affront. Tommy Lee Jones' bedroom scene offers a facile example of politely discreet miscegination.

Worst of all, there were too few highs and lows. There was no real feeling of triumph or catharsis; it was an emotionally flat movie.

report 34 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by carnivalbarker on 11/20/2012 at 5:17 PM

Amazing movie and important. Many Americans understand so little of our history. My expectations were high and the movie exceeded them. The screen play should win the Oscar. Elegant and concise. I thought I would be disappointed in the narrow scope, but the decision to focus on the 13th amendment was correct. Thrilling. Sally Field was outstanding in a role every bit is difficult as Daniel Day Lewis'. Well written and well acted.

We are fortunate to have this piece of art in existence. Whatever the shortcomings perceived by some, we all benefit from understanding a little about this seminal moment in human history and the man whose vision and leadership made it happen.

report 4 likes, 22 dislikes   
Posted by Tim Watson on 11/20/2012 at 6:45 PM

You are wrong.
Lincoln is a powerful and entertaining movie. Also, educational.
Powerful is the best word.
I found it very moving.

report 4 likes, 27 dislikes   
Posted by Barnes Dave on 11/21/2012 at 1:57 AM

The movie was too slow. I felt like I was watching C-SPAN live coverage, only it was an 1800's version of it. I don't mean to sound like a Puritan, because I am not one; however, too many bawdy comments came out of Lincoln's mouth. That's a shame, because he has so many beautiful, sagacious quotes that were very Biblical in nature. I also found some of the dialogue to be too difficult to hear. Maybe that's me just needing a Miracle Ear - or something. :--) I give the movie a B-

report 23 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by Phoenix AZ on 11/22/2012 at 1:47 AM

I agree with this review. I especially disliked Lewis' performance. It felt cartoonish, contrived, forced, wooden. It felt completely outside-in acting. I longed for someone like Gregory Peck to play this role, someone with heart and soul and quiet wisdom. I am a big Lewis fan, but was very disappointed in his performance.

report 24 likes, 5 dislikes   
Posted by Gary Jader on 11/22/2012 at 11:47 AM

Interestingly, Gregory Peck did play Lincoln once, in the TV miniseries THE BLUE AND THE GRAY.

Thanks for writing!

report 17 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Matt Brunson on 11/22/2012 at 2:17 PM

I really wanted to like this movie, but I did not. It was a bore, over-long and over-directed. Not even showing the assassination was a huge let-down.

report 19 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by wileyness on 11/24/2012 at 2:41 AM


report 14 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by JUST SAW IT on 11/26/2012 at 1:06 AM

AWFUL analysis, although the characterization of the scene addressing the Gettysburg Address is apt.

I, for one, am relieved the film sidestepped most of the gaggy trappings of forensic pseudo-psychology, the insufferable id-hunt, of this man. Seriously, aren't we all tired of the standard formula Just-So analyses of the supposed daddy issues and other such repressions? Isn't there room in film today to present such a compelling story of a democratically elected leader's challenges, intuition, and skill wielding his quite limited government powers to accomplish sweeping change?

report 2 likes, 26 dislikes   
Posted by Shann Bridges on 11/26/2012 at 1:13 AM

Matt got it right. The movie was painstakingly slow. It was 30 minutes too long. I felt myself saying, "so what." The 13th Amendment was important, but did we need a major Hollywood movie dedicated to the passage of it? I am glad a reviewer was bold enough to speak the truth. It reminded me of Elaine admitting she hated the "English Patient."

report 21 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by Pooman on 11/26/2012 at 2:40 PM

Matt was wrong. It is the best Spielberg film I've seen. It did an amazing job of capturing the time, the events, what was at stake and the emotion of it all. Daniel Day phenomenal as usual. What a humble, intellectual giant Lincoln was facilitating the best possible outcome. The only thing I'm sensing from the negative reviews is an inability to get out of the 2012 comfort zone for a couple of hours. I'd love to see what movies the naysayers like. On second thought spare me.

report 1 like, 22 dislikes   
Posted by Paul Kelly on 11/26/2012 at 7:58 PM
Showing 1-19 of 19

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