“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.

 

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Open Your Mind to the Twisty World of “Looper”

Time travel has been discovered and subsequently outlawed. By 2074, the mob now uses it to get rid of people by sending the target back 30 years so that one of their looper agents can kill and dispose of the body without detection. This well-established technique gets put to the test when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to close his own loop by killing his older self (Bruce Willis). Now, young Joe must chase after old Joe to protect the life he currently has.
But old Joe has a mind of his own. A menacing threat has arisen in the future and ruined the perfect life he had created for himself. He uses his banishment to the past to track down and eliminate the perpetrator. But establishing trust is not something that Joe has ever been good at, and working alone proves to be very dangerous.
Writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick) has crafted a twisty and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller that easily toys with your emotions. He uses classic sci-fi tropes to examine how our actions in the present effect our future—and, technically, vice versa. As each new layer of the story is revealed, the interconnectedness of the film grows more complex and fascinating.
Gordon-Levitt, in heavy makeup to resemble his future self, easily becomes a sympathetic hero. Willis, however, vacillates between hero and villain seamlessly, leaving you unsure whether you want him to succeed or not. Emily Blunt pops into the film for a very important role, but any ingenuity she brings to the role is quickly overshadowed by her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Gagnon is both adorable and terrifying in his role, which is extraordinary considering he’s only about 10 years old. He’s single-handedly the best thing about the film.
While an appreciation of sci-fi makes the film extremely entertaining, it’s not a requirement. Looper, like all films, is about relationships, making it accessible to all audiences as long as they are capable of opening their minds a little.