Steven Spielberg's political biopic of the 16th President of the USA. Focusing on the final four months of his life, Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) clashes with members of his cabinet on the road to abolishing slavery and ending the American Civil War. In cinemas January 31st.
Steven Spielberg has always been a sentimentalist, but it's been easy to forgive because of his mastery of the cinematic form and the medium's suitability to big broad emotions.
Occasionally though (Always; The Terminal), his sentimental side overcomes his filmmaking instincts, and we end up with a film like Lincoln.
A shamelessly hagiographic chronicling of the final months of the Great Emancipator's life, the film deifies Lincoln to greater heights than ever before while struggling to constuct anything resembling a captivating narrative around his various speeches and pronouncements.
Abraham Lincoln's achievements were historic, and he is undoubtedly worthy of such respect, but this isn't his retirement party, it's a movie. And movies have an obligation to engage the viewer in something more than hushed reverence.
The plot that drives this film concerns a parliamentary vote for which history has long since determined the outcome. Outside of this in-no-way-gripping-whatsoever storyline we get familial conflict involving Lincoln's wife (Sally Field) and eldest son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
And of course Daniel Day-Lewis' title performance, which prevents this film from receiving a one star rating. He's impressive to be sure, and that might be enough to get some members of the audience through the film. But Spielberg appears to think his mere presence is inherently dramatic, and hangs way too much of the film on his pontificating.
It's clear that some of the power of this movie is lost when viewed outside of an American context. I love all things American, but in this instance, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.