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.
I generally enjoyed the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes film that came out in 2009. While it had a ton of flaws and was lightweight on the detective work, it was still a fun popcorn flick and I thought that the Downey/Law chemistry as Holmes/Watson was pitch perfect. The first film was a huge success so of course they immediately greenlit a sequel. Would the sequel improve upon the negatives of the first and deliver the same goods that made the first such a crowd pleaser?
Unfortunately, this is probably one of the most brainless movies I’ve seen in a long time. There is very little going on in the intellectual department of this film. This film suffers from even more of the problems from the first film which was too much action and not enough detective work. Off the top of my head I think there were about 6 or 7 action set pieces and while they were fun to watch at times, they became tedious, repetitive, and tiresome very quickly.
On a popcorn “turn off your brain” level Sherlock Holmes 2 is a fun romp. This movie is unfortunately what you get when you let Hollywood run rampant with the “Sherlock Holmes” name: a ton of action and barely any detective work.
Guy Ritchie kind of goes off the wall with his trademark use of rapid editing and insane slow motion. I thought his direction was one of the weaker parts of the first, but in this one he goes all out (for better and for worse). I dug the fact that they used “Holmes vision” more than twice (which was all they did for the first film). The action set piece in the woods was pretty phenomenal stuff. I’m very surprised that Warner Bros. didn’t force Ritchie to shoot in 3D, because that set piece would have been INSANE in 3D the way that he was zooming in and out of the woods and the way that the depth of the field/focus was employed. Many times the direction was completely headache inducing though. Rapid cuts with about 30 different shots all in order will do that to you. This film did seem to bear more of Guy Ritchie’s personality than the first film, whether you enjoy that or not is up to you.
What I disliked the most about this film, besides the fact that it felt really dumb, was how impersonal the whole affair seemed. The action of this film could have really driven the plot forward had they established a greater emotional connection between the characters at hand. Instead it sort of just feels like we’re trying to create an excuse for the next action set piece.
The detective work in this film is a joke. At least in the first film they go around and inspect environments for clues and try to piece the mystery together. In this movie Sherlock Holmes literally just looks at some stuff, cut to close up of item, and then later on in the movie he explains the relevance of it. That is on some National Treasure “the protagonist knows everything but you don’t” bullshit, and it doesn’t make for a compelling mystery because you can’t put those clues together yourself. The evidence he brings into play all require additional knowledge that the audience simply doesn’t have. The first film’s detective elements were weak as well, but at least they kept us informed about what each clue meant and didn’t just save it for later explanations.
Every character outside of Holmes and Watson feels wasted. Well, Jared Harris actually has some really nice moments as Moriarty, but other than that no one else in this film mattered. Noomi Rapace was merely okay as the female sidekick. Her character doesn’t really add anything to the film and while her performance wasn’t bad, it wasn’t anything noteworthy. Oh yeah, Stephen Fry does get to have some comedic relief moments, which was nice.
This film is basically the Bad Boys II of this Sherlock Holmes series. I love Bad Boys II unabashedly for the insane action, but almost everything else about it is stupid and I can fully admit that. Sherlock Holmes 2 takes everything from the first film and amps it up. More Downey/Law bromance, more insane editing/slow motion, more ridiculous action, and even less intellect than the previous film.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a crowd pleasing popcorn film, but I was certainly expecting much more than just mindless action and explosions from a film calling itself “Sherlock Holmes.” If you go in with the notion that this is just a fun flick to turn your brain off to, I think that you will find a lot to enjoy as I did, but if you go in expecting something more in the vein of Sherlock Holmes and detective work you will be very disappointed.