Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Lincoln (2012)


Abraham Lincoln: Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and 
lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. 

Undoubted when one sits down to watch a Spielberg film, one should expect the very least greatness of a vast magnitude. However, every legend's glory can fade out. This does not necessarily apply in this case but objectively speaking, this film left me wanting and with a mundane expression when the end credits starting rolling. But let's take things from the beginning, shall we?

'Lincoln' is based on the true events of the life of Abraham Lincoln, the greatest, most remembered president of the United States of America. Following the real events in 1865, as the American Civil War winds inexorably toward conclusion, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln endeavors to achieve passage of the landmark constitutional amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States. However, his task is a race against time, for peace may come at any time, and if it comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it can become law. Lincoln must, by almost any means possible, obtain enough votes from a recalcitrant Congress before peace arrives and it is too late. Yet the president is torn, as an early peace would save thousands of lives. As the nation confronts its conscience over the freedom of its entire population, 
Lincoln faces his own crisis of conscience -- end slavery or end the war.

So this film is a gigantic biopic based on one of the greatest minds that have ever walked on the USA soil, and ever since then there have been many who tried to follow in his footsteps, without the same success or glory though. This is without a doubt a one man show; without ignoring the rest of the cast, among them the astounding Sally Field, Spielberg created a filmic canvas around the figure of one man's consciousness against a nation's growing demands. The backdrop of the American Civil war was definitely a gigantic challenge for the master of war films, Steven Spielberg. Given the fact that during the past three decades, Spielberg has given us one of the most memorable war films, 'Lincoln' was particularly a challenge to him because it is very close to home, it is a film about a man that not only defined a nation and what it is today, but a film about the ethical principles of human freedom.

Cinematography for Spielberg always plays a key role, and this film was no exception. The gloominess and the rapture of the war-zone that loomed even from the first scene through our screen is reason enough to draw anyone's attention. The "bombartic" challenges of the interchanging shots between parliamentary negotiations and the battlefield, never gave out as they lured you in, first into Lincoln's presidential decision-making space and then into his own private space at home. Spielberg is clever enough never to miss out the opportunity of reminding us that his war figures as also simple people, with conflicts and personal crisis going on. This also applies here. 

However, one must look at the bigger picture and objectively critique; this film is long. Not in the meaning of running time, but in the meaning of stalling. Looking at this with an entire fresh view, from someone who does not know a lot about Lincoln's life or the American Civil war, it is my personal feeling that this film was dragging out, hopelessly waiting for the end. Gotta admit that there was a big emotional gap somewhere in the middle which left me indifferent towards the character's personal drama, thus making me lose an interest at the visual narrative action. Up until the last few scenes of the final negotiations, I found myself drifting at times. My reasons for that is in the execution; how was the average viewer supposed to be engaged in the drama, personal or otherwise, when I did not have the faintest idea whether I liked the main character or not, whether I wanted him to forgo the abolishment of slavery or forgo with all the bloodshed that the war was causing. All these feelings made me feel dull and bored, thus not being able to glorify the greatness of Spielberg's latest war masterpiece. Personally I do not comprehend the Academy's decision in opting Spielberg for a Best Director award as I believe with this one he was lacking in his skills and narrative story telling. 

Putting aside the directorial executions, I do have to whole-heartdely admit the greatness of choosing such an amazing cast to undertake such a big challenge. The leader of the cast, Lincoln himself, was appointed to none other but the mètre of excellence, Mr. Daniel Day Lewis (In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot, Last of the Mohicans, There will be Blood,Gangs of New York, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Age of Innocence, The Crucible). Even saying this man's name, boosts your confidence. I have decided that they should give this actor the title of the Midas Actor, because in whatever film I have ever seen him in he is golden and made me shudder. Lincoln was no exception. What a titanic role to portray and yet by what a grandiosity he managed to re-create the excellence of such a historical figure. Day Lewis, oozed brilliance throughout, whether script or directing wise the film was found lacking, Lewis literally salvages every single moment in the film with his performing discipline and his profound engagement to the character. Let alone the fact that he lures you into his world, into his vast consciousness of choosing between right and wrong for so many other people, he also makes sure you take a second and consider his personal drama, his own demons he was facing and ultimately leaving you the space to look at him with clarity and objectivity. That for me is a remarkable thing for any actor to pull through as it needs an excruciating amount of dedication and depth given to such a role.

Likewise, the same opinion applies for the superb performances of acting giants Sally Field (Norma Rae, Forrest Gump, Brothers & Sisters, Not Without my Daughter, Mrs. Doubtfire, Steel Magnolias) and Tommy Lee Jones (No Country for Old Men, In the Valley of Elah, Men in Black, The Fugitive). Both of them ooze virtuosity and thespian stamina, able to support and equally perform next to Day Lewis. A special thumbs up for Field, who portrays Linconl's wife. Her unwavering passion and focus for this role is another proof of what a remarkable actress she is. Not to mention the rest of the astounding cast with actors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Halye, Lee Pace etc. 

As always, the glorious music score was composed by world famous composer John WilliamsNeedless to say of how brilliant his score is. His music investment aides the editing perfectly and smoothly to fit precisely into the narrative.

In all, and to finally be done with reviewing this film, I believe this is not one of Spielberg's greatests, but that however does not imply it is not a fantastic film. Even if it is just for the acting, this film excels in its own right. Whether over-appreciated or not, the themes alone stand for a unique two and a half hours in dissecting the life of the greatest president of the United States ever had. 

Hope you enjoy it, if you decide to sit for a viewing. Let me know your thoughts!

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