Cameron's Review of Lincoln
Steven Spielberg is back in black, or rather, back into saving blacks, and I still don't entirely know how they let his cracker Jew self get away with portraying the plight of the blacks, though I certainly have a better understanding with this film than I do with "The Color Purple", not just because Spielberg has since come into being, well, "the" Steven Spielberg, but because, in this film, he's only portraying the white people's side of the story, and he has Tony Kushner, a writer who falls under a certain other kind of category of minority that the liberals love to kiss up to, to get his back (so to speak). Man, "Angels in America" was awesome, but hey, Tony, I'm also liking this, "Saving Private Servants" (That title sounds more offensive than I expected it to), even though it doesn't have Tom Hanks, whose presence would be so much fun for people who know their Lincoln fun facts, because Lincoln's mother's name was Nancy [u]Hanks[/u], who had a brother, and, well, you can guess where history goes from there. Eh, now that I think about it, I'm cool with Hanks' absence, because his Mama Gump being the wife of his third cousin, four times removed, would have established an ostensibly disturbing family tree that would have only further convolute this film, and plus, after "Cloud Atlas", I think Hanks is going to need a break from star-studded historical epics. Oh man, there are so many good names in this film, and it's a good thing that they actually resemble the people they're portraying, because I can't help but feel as though Spielberg would have gotten them no matter what, just for the sake of having them (Look out for Dane DeHaan as white soldier #2; go, that DiCaprio-lookin' guy from "Chronicle"!). Hey, I'll run with it, because now that Tommy Lee Jones has played the ultimate Republican, it's only a matter of time before they figure out some way to make him Nixon and give him his own role as a US president, which I'm hoping will offer him a better hairpiece. Now, look, I'm not saying that Jones' hair be as awesome as it was in "JFK", I'm just saying that it's a good thing that he's awesome enough in this film to command your attention, because it's hard to take that hairdo seriously. Of course, after "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", it's hard to not most take everything in this film seriously, which isn't to say that that's the only reason why this film is, as it knows how to put the big names behind it to good use, though not as much as I was hoping it would, because for every strength, there is a flaw in this ambitious project.
As much as I appreciate Steven Spielberg as a storyteller who is not simply very well-experienced, but highly influential, I don't feel as though he's ever gotten too firm of a grip on pacing, and sure enough, while this film isn't as bland as I feared it would be, it drags its feet time and again, often simply meandering, occasionally all-out dulling up, and consistently emphasizing the final product's being, not simply slow, but just too darn long. As much as I love "Angels in America", the only reason why it's not all-out great is because it is, even for a miniseries, just too blasted long, going padded out by dialogue that may be glowing, but outstays its welcome, and with this film not being handled by Mike Nichols, a man who hasn't recieved the attention that he should be getting as a filmmaker who stays way too faithful to the draggy art of stage storytelling when adapting a play, I was expecting playwright Tony Kushner to at least attempt at a tight script, something that this film most definately doesn't boast in the long run, being well-crafted enough, particularly in the dialogue department, to sustain your investment much more often than not, but bloated by excess and overlong dialogue material (Jeez, how many random overlong stories is Lincoln going to whip out, generic grandpa style, during meetings?) that, before too long, makes the final product somewhat aimlessly reptitious, particularly when it comes to the overlong final act that ironically ends on a cop-out and isn't the only overblown section of this film unnecessarily sprawling film. After a while, a disengaging degree of blandness ensues, and just like that, the film is rendered incapable of ever reaching its full potential, not so much so that it underwhelms on the whole, but most decidedly to the point of holding back resonance, which goes further retarded by, of all things, certain aspects to this film that are anything but overdrawn, whether they be near-considerable development limitings that keep you from getting as emotionally invested as you should be in figures you already recognize objectively, to even greater limitings in story scope. As much as this film is marketed as something of an epic, it is, in fact, a minimalist, dialogue-driven political drama, boasting subject matter that may be important and interesting, but a bit too thin in the scope of its potential-boasting focus, as emphasized by this film's being, of course, too long to be as minimalist as it is, as well as by this film's sometimes trying too hard to tap dance around flesh-out, whose going thinned out is sometimes too considerable to ignore. I never thought that I would say that I'm against the idea of presenting democrats as evil pigs, but this film's very biased, rather liberal presentation of some problematically ultra-conservative democrats is pretty disconcerting in its lack of dimension, not to where the flawed forces of pro-slavery come off as fire-breathing man-devils, but certainly to where certain characters come off as too one-note as antagonists, though not as the only components to superficiality, because as compelling as this film generally is, there's just not enough genuineness to the crafting of this film, particularly when it comes to the dramatic aspects, whose sentimental presentation isn't too problematic, being that this film's more dramatic notes' humanly rich subject matter is valuable, but too Spielberg in its being both detrimental to emotional impact, as well as reflective of this film's being much too undercooked. There is plenty of value to the concept and, for that matter, execution of this promising project, so don't expect to walk away unrewarded, but don't exactly expect to walk into a powerhouse, as this film all too often undercuts its potential and ambition through plotting that is both overblown and overly thinned out, thus making for a good film that nevertheless falls too short of its full potential. With that said, do note my, in fact, deeming this film genuinely good, because as flawed as the final product very much is, it powers on as a compelling drama, or at least a well-done production.
Production designer Rick Carter and costume designer Joanna Johnston have been behind the crafting of many a well-produced, or at least notable film, plenty of which were period pieces, quite a few of which, from "Indiana Jones" to "War Horse", were by Steven Spielberg, so of course Carter and Johnston were Spielberg's preferred choice as the designers of this film, which is indeed quite good, as Carter and Johnston deliver as much as they ever have in restoring a time that we've seen revived on the screen time and again, but rarely with this much life, to where thorough and dynamic intricacy, married with high believability, sells you on this film's notable era, and does so with plenty of distinctive beauty that you can also find within the efforts of a certain other technically proficient recurring Spielberg collaborator. Ever since "Schindler's List", Spielberg has never parted from Janusz Kami?ski, who Spielberg helped in bringing accolades and attention as quite possibly one of today's great cinematographers, a high honor that Kami?ski further proves himself worthy of with this film, delivering on his trademark crispness, slick shot staging, and brilliantly diverse plays with rich lighting and coloring, to where the darker moments boast a grippingly beautiful balance between visibility and obscurity, while the more well-lit moments bounce with color, and the magic moments, in which Kami?ski especially places extensive attention to the detail of the environments he's shooting in, simply take your breath away, thus making this film, if nothing else, one of the best-shot of 2012. The film is every bit as visually stunning as it is well-produced, with Kami?ski, Carter and Johnston delivering as remarkably as much as you would expect, while John Williams delivers as much as you would hope, because as respectable as Williams is as one of the most influential score composers in film history, he doesn't always knock it out of the park, but when he does, oh boy, he sure does remind you why he is the living legend that he is today, like he does in this film, whose score slips into a few relatively underwhelming genericisms and repetitious spells, but is, on the whole, very inspired, with distinctly John Williams-esque soul and sweep that are at their warmest in years, boasting enough musical elegance and substance to help in defining both this film's entertainment value and the film itself. Williams composes one of 2012's best scores, and breathes enough essence into this film's substance to sustain your attention, or rather, help in sustaining your attention, because as much as I talk about how much this film accels both technically and artistically, at the core of this ambitious project is subject matter that may be a bit too minimalist and, in execution, messily handled, but is very worthy and interesting, with depths and layers that stand to go further explored in this still very overdrawn film, which nonetheless remains compellingly rich with intrigue, thanks largely to the efforts of Tony Kushner, whose script is loose and, in a few key spots, superficial, but still very strong, with dialogue that all but cuts through its being overdrawn with witty sharpness that colors up a story that Kushner, at least more so than the overambitious and barely subtle directorial efforts of Spielberg, fleshes out just enough for you to find yourself hard pressed to ignore consistent engagement value. Kushner's screenplay is stronger than Spielberg's direction, and enough so for this film to reward as an overlong, but well-written dialogue drama, with color and resonance that wouldn't be as rich as it ultimately is without the efforts of the talents on screen, for although this film's performers aren't as consistently powerful in their working with Kushner's material as those of, well, "Angels in America" (If you haven't seen the show yet, you have seriously got to find a six-hour window of free time), this film's massive cast of talents delivers, with standouts including the unevenly used Tommy Lee Jones, - who isn't as strong as they say, but still as show-stealingly charismatic as always - the underused Sally Field - whose surprisingly quite emotional portrayal of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln's struggle with anguish over the damage done and to be done to her family and country ranks among the relative best performances by a supporting actress of 2012 - and, of course, our lead. The praise directed at Daniel Day-Lewis almost all the time is so vast that, after a while, it's hard to think anything of it, until, of course, you actually see Day-Lewis at work, proving himself to be one of today's great actors, like he effortlessly does in this film, being not quite Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master", but very much decidedly one of 2012's all around best performances, capturing the distinct physicality, possible vocal force, and presence of Abraham Lincoln transformatively, while delivering on passionate line delivery and subtle layers that define Lincoln as a human, and Day-Lewis as a sparklingly charismatic and worthwhile lead. Day-Lewis really drives this film that plays with underwhelmingness, but never falls through, because as improvable as this film, there is enough wealth to its substance and style to engage thoroughly and consistently, until you finally walk away rewarded.
Overall, a fair deal of slow spells emphasize how overlong this film is, while thin spots in characterization, and superficiality that often dips into sentimentality emphasize this film's subject matter's minimalism almost to the point of driving the final product into underwhelmingness that ultimately proves unable to capture the promising yet flawed project, whose dazzling production value, stunning cinematography and upstanding score work make the film technically and stylistically commendable, while intriguing subject matter, brought to life by a witty and often colorful script by Tony Kushner, and carried by a talented, star-studded cast, from which Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field and leading man Daniel Day-Lewis strand out, make "Lincoln" a compelling political drama that almost outstays its welcome, but ultimately rewards.
3/5 - Good