“Long day at the movies. Well if I was gonna hobble over, I was gonna make it count goddammit. Doubled up on two hour plus films. Starting with Lincoln. No vampires this time, unless you count the sparkly ones he was fighting at the box office.
This movie was just destined to be a success. Steven Spielberg behind the camera pretty much guarantees that, because even if he’s not on his game (highly unlikely), he’ll inspire plenty of kick ass people to join. So many familiar faces kept popping up on screen. Sure everyone is talking about Daniel Day-Lewis. There’s some love being passed around for Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones as well. Talk about that trio (Day-Lewis in particular) is so extreme, I kept on forgetting that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in this as well. There were more surprise appearances, some of whom I didn’t even recognize until IMDB informed me: David Strathairn, James Spader, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace. Each of whom delivered a top notch performance.
But none ranked higher than Day-Lewis’ performance as the man himself. No surprise there. Mr two time Academy Award winner is one of the greatest actors of our time. He loses himself in each character he plays and becomes completely unrecognizable. Each is so different from the others. Watching him here, I could not fathom that this was the same man from There Will Be Blood. Just mind boggling. Given Lincoln’s stature and status, you’d expect him to be this overpowering and commanding figure, but Day-Lewis played him as softspoken and careful. But he was still strong and commanding without being forceful. So nuanced and subtle. I loved whenever he went off on a tangent telling his stories. I found myself as absorbed in them as his audience must have been. He’s known as a method actor who never breaks character on set. This time around that meant that he was even texting his leading lady love notes signed as Abe Lincoln.
Speaking of that leading lady, I had mixed feelings about Sally Field. Yes, she played the part beautifully, but something seemed off to me. Her accent was too reminiscent of Mama Gump for me, and I felt she was maybe a wee bit old for the part. Apparently Spielberg had originally thought so as well, and she had to fight tooth and nail to get cast. But when she was on, damn was she on. She had this brilliant verbal smackdown delievered to Tommy Lee Jones that left me stunned.
Not all of the talent was on screen. Spielberg also managed to wrangle in Tony Kushner as the screenwriter. If that name doesn’t ring a bell for you, he wrote Angels in America, which is one of the greatest modern plays ever written. I had the privilege of seeing an off-Broadway production two years ago and it was truly truly amazing. Lincoln actually had a very theater-ish feel to it. The entire thing was dialog driven, with hardly any screen time that didn’t involve talking or interaction. Characters, mostly our leading man of course, would go on long uninterrupted monologues. I could honestly see this played out on stage.
All of the bits and pieces were impressive, but as it was, the film clocked in over two hours. Yeah it had my rapt attention, but it was still rather long. God only knows what Kushner’s original screenplay looked like. I’d heard that while most screenplays are 200 pages, his first draft was closer to 1000. Yeesh. I did like that it was focused on one major event in an isolated period of time during Lincoln’s life. Otherwise trying to fit everything in would have been more insane than Mary Todd Lincoln was rumored to have been.
Lincoln – \m/ \m/ \m/