It seems the list was a bit hasty in adding War Horse to the list; this is the modern Spielberg epic the list had been waiting for. Lincoln received a high amount of pre-release buzz, partly as a biopic of Abraham Lincoln, but more so as the next awards-worthy vehicle for Daniel Day-Lewis and his unprecedented acting prowess. Well, now having seen the resulting film, I can say for myself; my expectations were met. That being said, after seeing War Horse and expecting largely a copycat production, my expectations weren’t all that high.
The film, unlike most biopics with a hefty length, doesn’t look at Lincoln’s entire life, but rather focuses on the events leading up to the ratification of the 13th Amendment, and Lincoln’s subsequent assassination (though the latter is merely touched upon as a denouement in the conclusion). So, what does the film do, then? Well… my assumption that it would be very much a spiritual sequel to War Horse wasn’t entirely off the mark. The films play almost the same, though Spielberg knows enough from the reception of his previous film to not try and shoehorn in that “Spielberg wonder” that lights up the eyes of his audience, and instead stick with the serious tone that makes his films like Saving Private Ryan as good as they are. What may ruffle a few feathers, however, is the unbridled reverence Spielberg’s film showers on the 16th President. The film quite obviously takes a bit of liberty with the events depicted in the film, making damn near everything that happens either a machination or direct action of Lincoln himself, as opposed to a joint effort by several and many individuals, and propping the man up on such a pedestal that he seemingly makes no mistakes, or any he does make are more the fault of others than of him. Now, of course, I have no idea whether or not history actually contains the events herein as they are shown to us, but I fully understand the medium of film’s propensity to glorify and propagandize history for its own aims, and I cannot discount Lincoln from this assumption no matter how hard the film itself may try to. What I can of course abide is my main man, Daniel Day-Lewis, who once again knocks it out of the park, but what especially surprised me was the fact that he had probably the best supporting cast of the decade so far backing him up; so many recognizable faces and notable names have key roles, or even fleeting roles, that there really are way too many to name here. Great cast, all around.
Day-Lewis and the cast aside, however, this is merely a good film, and nothing more. I may even stretch that to say that this is a very good film, but I wouldn’t stretch it any farther, or it would probably snap. The script was decent, if a little too hobbled by political drama, the score was piddling at best, and the cinematography was largely one-note (though, I will point an exception out with the lighting). Still, like I said in the opener, if the List has been looking for a post-Private Ryan Spielberg film, especially one that has the chance to stick around instead of being culled after an edition or two, I think they’ve found it with this one. It might be a little long, and a little convoluted to follow (the cast is so voluminous, for instance, and at least half of them aren’t mentioned specifically by name, so it’s hard to remember who’s who), but it’s still a pretty good picture.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10