Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lincoln, or How Spielberg Ruined A Perfectly Good Movie By Turning It Into A PolySci Lecture

Lincoln could've been the best movie of the year. How can a movie directed by the greatest director alive with the greatest actor of his time playing the greatest president in US history be bad? Well... it can and it can't. I need to begin this review by saying that I, A.) enjoyed the movie (I gave it a 14 out of 17 on the Sitzman scale) and, B.) know nothing about politics, US Government or the House of Representatives. But, I do have A LOT of problems with this movie.

First of all, the movie is boring. I think this might be the first time I've been bored during a Spielberg movie since Amistad (the movie that Lincoln most reminds me of). It's not that the story's necessarily boring, it's the fact that Spielberg is so keen on making every detail and fact correct that he forgets he's telling a story. The film is bogged down with loads of political speak like "we need a 2/3rds majority" and "a concurrent resolution of amendment" and "where does poop drop". Most of the film is spent with politicians being told how to vote or arguing why they vote. And other times "lobbyists" I guess they are called, run amok getting shot at by "renegade Democrats" and argue amongst themselves who they will turn. I may be in the minority, but most of the time I had no idea why any of this was happening. It made me feel like a moron.

Every character talks in speeches. It made me wonder if Lincoln ever had a normal conversation with someone without resorting to a story ending in a lesson or moral. Every piece of dialogue in the film feels like it was worked over to sound as important and flowery as possible. I recently watched Schindler's List again and noticed that Spielberg spends more time than needed mentioning EVERY name on the list. Any time someone reads the list, they say 30 names before it cuts. I know he is trying to pay respect to those who actually lived during the Holocaust, but the IDEA could have been understood with only a few names read. The same thing happens in Lincoln when the vote finally occurs, every House member's name is read along with their vote. It became monotonous.

Not everything is bad. Day-Lewis gives another amazing performance, one that is more subtle than his last few roles. Sally Field is fantastic and feels like the only "real" character in the whole movie. She stole every scene she was in, which is hard working with classic scene-chewers like Tommy Lee Jones or Day-Lewis. The cinematography was also very beautiful, but that again is expected coming from Janusz Kaminski (aka one of 3 greatest living cinematographers).

I don't really know what I was expecting from this film. Maybe more heart? Spielberg haters always claim his films have TOO much heart and emotion. Maybe he was trying to go against what people expected of him. I'm not sure.


  1. Aren't lobbyists those people in fancy hotels that take your baggage up to your room? That's not that hard to understand, Jake.

  2. Haha, nice one Deuce!

    I've not seen this movie, but I'll have to see if it's at the video store here in Costa Rica (probably dubbed into Russian with Thai subtitles, but oh well). But it does sound interesting, just to see if I also think it's boring, haha...

    I'm also glad you didn't give away the ending on this one, Jake, since I can't wait to find out what happens!

  3. Hahahaha, "where does poop drop". Nothing makes movies more boring than discussing the bearings of feces.

    On a more serious note, I like your title and also the saying "scene-chewers".

    1. I also thought "scene-chewers" was pretty cool!