“Lincoln” Is More Historical Bore Than Illuminating Biopic

Lincoln-posterReferring to Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln as a biopic is a bit of a misnomer. The film’s action is centered around the final months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life as he fights to get the anti-slavery amendment passed.  Following the political machinations involved with the amendment, Lincoln feels more like an extended episode of The West Wing than a biopic of Lincoln’s life.

Because it’s a Spielberg film, he’s managed to accrue an all-star cast. Daniel Day-Lewis astutely plays Lincoln, vanishing into the character and easily managing the monologues screenwriter Tony Kushner wrote. Sally Field earnestly plays his wife Mary Todd, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings a little depth to his rebellious son Robert. Among the Washington politicos are a variety of names you will most likely recognize: David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Lee Pace, and Tommy Lee Jones (and keep your eyes peeled for a special appearance by Girls’ Adam Driver).

When the politicking doesn’t get too obtuse, the plotting for votes can be somewhat entertaining. The film also highlights some of the family drama that Lincoln was dealing with at the time as well, which has its compelling moments. But, overall, this is a fairly dull film. Kushner’s writing is more suited for a stage adaptation of the material. Monologues—both political and personal—abound; but the cinematography leaves these speeches feeling stagnant. (And wouldn’t we rather see Day-Lewis win a Tony instead of yet another Oscar?)

Even if you can manage to get engaged in the struggle for amendment votes, the big vote occurs around the 2-hour mark of this 150-minute film. That leaves a full 30 minutes to show a ponderous Lincoln, slowly moving to his inevitable assassination (which is as equally anticlimactic as the amendment vote). Lincoln is one of the most over-hyped films of this Awards season, and the one you’re least likely to see. And you might as well keep it that way, unless you’d like to pay $14 for a nap.