When I heard that Steven Spielberg was making a movie about Abraham Lincoln with Daniel Day-lewis as Lincoln… well let’s be honest, who WOULDN’T be excited about that!? At the same time you could smell “Oscar bait” from a mile away. The ensemble cast they assembled only got me further hyped. I have to say though, despite how hyped I was on paper to see the movie, when the original trailer for this movie hit, it didn’t make me all that interested in seeing the movie. That trailer just made the movie seem like, as many people have said, “War Horse with Abraham Lincoln.” (And I was someone who enjoyed War Horse, but I didn’t like how Lincoln looked so similar). However, the second trailer they released was much better. Critical consensus came in to glowing reviews (90% with an 8/10 average rating on RottenTomatoes and 86/100 on Metacritic).
Overall, I thought Lincoln was a damn enjoyable adult drama. This is not a movie that I would recommend to people who can’t sit and pay attention to a talky drama. If you are easily distracted or need constant suspense or thrills, Lincoln is not the film for you. The film is a deliberate slow burn and its not building up to a massive grand finale of a climax, but it is more succinct in its nature and the points it makes.
I’ve read complaints saying that the “villains” in this movie are too over the top and the points it makes are so blunt. They may be a little too on the nose, but let’s face it, no one in the audience is going to sympathize for the pro-slavery side of things lol. I think that’s the main reason that the points the movie make seem obvious or blunt, we as a society have already accepted that slavery is awful, so of course someone outright saying slavery is bad will seem too direct. You have to remember that in Lincoln’s time while the idea of abolishing slavery was not unheard of, it was something that was controversial and opposed by the masses.
I can’t write this review without mentioning Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Abraham Lincoln. Well, there’s no much I can say about Lewis that hasn’t already been spouted off by much more talented and veteran writers than myself. The man literally carries this film on his back and has a surreal quality that embodies the legend of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s presence as an orator and the warmth is expertly conveyed through Lewis’s performance. Without Lewis, this movie falls flat on its face, period.
Aside from Lewis as Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones gives a magnificent supporting turn as a House representative who is a fervent supporter of racial equality. You’d think someone who’s FOR racial equality would be a kind old man, well you’d be wrong haha. He is a hard ass take no prisoners, I’m right, you’re wrong kind of politician. The perfect mixture of snark and intelligence, and it never becomes overbearing or makes you roll your eyes.
The cast of this film is absolutely ridiculous, and I mean that in a good way. This is a who’s who cast of fantastic character actors. Each scene felt like it had another new character actor brought into the mix. It felt deliberate, the way Contagion was cast with so many wonderful actors. Just like in that film, we don’t get much time to bond with many of the characters so the actors have to bring a sense of presence to them in order to differentiate themselves. Maybe someone might knock the film for having “one note” characters, but this is clearly a character study centered around Lincoln, not his allies and adversaries.
The strongest parts of the script is the political dealings that took place in the background. The secret meetings, the debating, making deals, etc. are all fascinating. Maybe this movie isn’t 100% historically accurate, but you see just how damn hard Lincoln and his supporters had to work to get something banned that in today’s time is seen as monstrous and horrible.
I also want to mention the fact that this movie is surprisingly funny. You wouldn’t think a movie about Lincoln and abolishing slavery would be all that funny, but the screenplay injects some sharp one liners here and there and Spielberg throws in some slapstick humor as well. James Spader is pure gold in this movie and I had to call him out because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out it was him during the movie haha.
I’ve read some reviews that say that the family dynamics were the weakest part of Lincoln and while I do agree that it wasn’t as strong as the political back dealings, I still found it decent. I thought the Joseph Gordon-Levitt character was superfluous at first, but by the end it felt like a much better version of the father-son subplot in War of the Worlds. The Lincoln/Mary Todd segments were the bits that got overly melodramatic and felt more like “WE’RE TRYING TO WIN OSCARS!” than actually good storytelling.
If you enjoy serious dramas and have the patience to sit through slow burns, Lincoln should be right up your alley. The movie is also quite funny at times, so it’s not all serious. Daniel Day-Lewis’s turn as Lincoln is a must see and the supporting cast is great.
First trailer for John Hillcoat’s Lawless! I’m a HUGE fan of Hillcoat’s 2005 Australian western The Proposition and I thought he did a fantastic job adapting Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Lawless looks like he’s going back to the savage nature of humans that he tackled in The Proposition and it looks spectacular to say the least. The marketing always tries to make Hillcoat’s movies look more action oriented than they actually are though. This cast is seriously flawless though… Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, and Gary Oldman. Just noticed that Dane DeHaan from Chronicle is in the mix as well.
Lawless was adapted from the book The Wettest County in the World, a book I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a while now. I’m definitely going to get around to reading it over the summer because this movie looks SO GOOD! I was already hyped when I found out who was directing and starring in this film, but this trailer has me so amped!
My first movie of 2012! *tear* It’s beautiful, so beautiful. Made all the more beautiful by the fact that it was a great first film to start off the 2012 movie year. Can you believe that it’s been damn near a month since the last time I saw a movie in theaters!? The last film I saw was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. There were quite a few other movies I wanted to catch, but just haven’t had the time due to school. Thanks to Natalie for coming with me to see this movie after I incessantly bugged her LOL.
Chronicle is the story of three teenagers who acquire telekinetic powers after finding a strange substance in the ground, which sounds very familiar in terms of superhero stories. However, Chronicle is not the typical superhero story of 1) finding powers, 2) exploring powers, 3) using powers for good. Something I remember /Film’s Peter Sciretta said about Hancock that I think fits with Chronicle is that it’s nice to go into a superhero story and not know any of the hero’s backstory. We know Peter Parker’s Uncle dies, we know that Joker isn’t going to die, we know the gamma rays are going to mutate Bruce Banner, etc. It was refreshing to go into a superhero story and not know what was going to happen.
The main trio of performances by Dane Dehaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan ground the story with a compelling look at the different natures of each character. This might be my bias showing, but I think Michael B. Jordan (who is amazing on The Wire and Friday Night Lights) is clearly the standout among the three. While not exactly having the most original character, Jordan gives a charming, charismatic performance. Dane Dehaan clearly has the meatiest role and is really good for the most part, but I thought his acting at times was a little flat and at others ridiculously over the top. Alex Russell does fine as well, but he doesn’t really shine during the dramatic moments. Once again, it could be my bias, but I’m still hoping that Jordan becomes the star that he should be.
What I loved the most about this movie is how different it feels compared to other found footage films and superhero stories. There are similarities of course, but they throw in some nice little touches here and there that made me appreciate the filmmaking aspects and the ingenuity of the execution. For example, they find a way to keep the film from being shaky cam all the time in a clever way that didn’t feel stupid. The action set pieces are also quite invigorating and really had me clenching my seat in tension.
Admittedly, there were a few aspects of the movie where I was thinking “wait, how does that make sense?” This is a found footage movie, so it doesn’t really make sense to me why the camera would cut in the middle of scenes and keep up with the conversation in perfect time. There were also a few spots where no one is holding the camera and for some reason it basically does a jump cut within the same scene, which makes no sense because the camera should be running at all times until someone turns it off. Plus, the plausibility that someone would keep recording at some of those times requires a lot of suspension of belief.
The CGI is quite shaky at times, but I was more forgiving towards this film because I know that the budget wasn’t very high. I was mostly completely enthralled at the moments in this film that I was totally sucked into the story of it all. The movie is only 84 minutes long, but it feels like you get a lot of bang for your buck and not like the film was trying to skimp on story or action set pieces.
Chronicle features impressive filmmaking backed by solid performances and some breathtaking sequences that’ll knock you off your feet. Found footage films and superhero stories have been in vogue for quite a while, but Chronicle clearly isn’t an attempt to cash in on those two popular subgenres. It does a lot to differentiate itself from other found footage films and superhero stories cut from the same cloth. I’d highly recommend you see this movie in theaters because it is well worth a watch.