Lincoln

History made boring
★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
2012
Director: 
Steven Speilberg
Starring: 
Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, Davd Straithorn
The Setup: 
Lincoln tries to get the 13th amendment passed.
Discussion: 

I was not excited about this, but vaguely curious given the talent involved and I wanted to see what angle Spielberg and company took to make it interesting, emotional and involving. The fact is, they didn't. It's a total snore. I was sitting there lulled, as it goes on, and goes on, surprised only by how pretty much no effort is made to give it an emotional hook or get us much interested in the sweep of history. It seems to be made for the sole purpose of being shown in high school history classes. And to somehow shore up Spielberg's career in "important" Americana.

The performances are good, of course. Daniel Day-Lewis is excellent as Lincoln, and gives the familiar figure a life and personality, although one that is not all that interesting or magnetic. The movie turns on a moral quandary of Lincoln needing to extend the Civil War in order to pass the 13th Amendment, which will outlaw slavery. If the war ends, which it is ready to, no one would be interested in passing the amendment. The reality is even less interesting than it sounds. The main action of the movie consists in talking to various people, trying to get them to vote for the amendment, and vaguely amusing speeches on the floor, with a great deal of huff-puffing. We all know how it ends, so it's just sitting there, in that lulled, not-altogether-unpleasant state of suspended animation until it gets there.

Those who like to look at beards of various types will be amply rewarded, and perhaps the audience with the greatest amount of interest in following the film. We also learn that the past was quite smoky. Those who note that actual African-Americans are rarely onscreen, and given little to do but gape at the magnanimity of whites, will find support for their position. Throughout, there are a fair amount of whites, including Lincoln, who are passionately against slavery on moral grounds and... honestly, I never felt it. It never quite rang true, which is part of why what should be the moral thrust of the story is just a steady trickle. There is also a notable scene with Lincoln chatting with Grant on a porch, sunlight shining on them, while the sun is clearly, visibly, in the SAME SHOT, shining in the opposite direction. Come on, man, we're expecting at least professionalism!

Should you watch it: 

If you're in a history class or something. Otherwise, reading a book will offer more thrills.