In the past few years there appears to have been a bit of a trend with me and the Oscars. Generally, they favour a film which I consider to be good but not great (The King’s Speech, The Artist) over one which I consider fantastic and substantially more worthy (The Social Network, The Descendants). I have a feeling this trend will continue this year with Lincoln tipped to take out the big prize and more notable mentions like say, Argo, missing out. I say that having now seen Lincoln and deeming it to be good – but not great.
There is no debating the cast at work here is without a doubt one of the best ensembles ever pulled together into one movie. Daniel Day Lewis has Best Actor sewn up, and with good reason, as his performance as Abraham Lincoln is simply something to marvel at. But he is not alone. Sally Field as Mrs Lincoln is brilliant as always. David Strathairn (who, if anyone should be interested, is number one on my ‘Hollywood Hotties over 50’ List) does a great job as Lincoln’s Secretary of State. And Tommy Lee Jones brings real emotional heart to the Congressman leading the charge to get the 13th Amendment (to abolish slavery) passed through the House of Representatives. If anything, the depth of the cast makes you wish people were on screen for longer – Joseph Gordon-Levitt appeared briefly as Lincoln’s eldest son, Lee Pace impressed as a very vocal and pompous opponent of the bill, and the trio of James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson brought much needed comedy to their roles as ‘consultants’ tasked with obtaining the required votes by any means necessary.
But, moving on from the cast, there is not a lot else about this film that I would describe as fantastic. The story – of Lincoln’s attempt to abolish slavery and end the Civil War all at the same time – is an incredibly interesting one, especially for someone who doesn’t already know alot about it. I do wonder though, for Americans who are brought up learning about this in their Civics lessons, whether this really brings anything new to the table. Also, the story is told in a relatively straight forward and pedestrian way. Although there are natural dramatic crescendos – such as the bill’s final reading in the house – which are built up well, there is little done beyond that to make this interesting story a compelling one for the viewer. The script is also good but not great – there are some brilliant quotes and lines – many of which I imagine may have been lifted from the history books. But I guess for someone who is used to watching on-screen politicians trade witty banter at rat-ta-tat pace (thank you Aaron Sorkin), this just left me a little wanting.
I have to say too that President Lincoln may have been treated a little too adoringly here. This portrayal of him is as a man almost without fault, who was devoted to country and family in equal measure, and who was adored by his constituents and all those who knew him. That may well be true, but all men are fallible, and tales of fallible men which focus on those foibles often prove more interesting. That said, the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will no doubt lap up this story of a man who led the country out of a time of great turmoil, and accomplished one of the most significant legal changes in their civil rights history. Add to that the fact that the other main contender for Best Picture – Zero Dark Thirty has been (unfairly I would suggest…) mired in controversy over the issue of torture, and I can say Lincoln pretty much has it in the bag. And hey, that guy who directed ET also directed this, so it has to win, right? 😉
M&Ms from me: 3 and a half.
Will probably win: Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor.
Will possibly win: Best Director.
Should win: Best Actor.
Up next (next weekend): Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook.