I saw Lincoln yesterday with some apprehension. I’ve been waiting to see this film since it was announced over a year ago. I remembered however how much I had anticipated War Horse and how disappointed I was after seeing that film. I was apprehensive about the length of Lincoln. Two and half hours is a long time. I had called a friend to go with me to see Lincoln, the same friend that had gone with me to see The Dark Knight Rises and he declined stating that he didn’t want to go see another movie where he was going to end up being bored.
I don’t understand what critics want anymore. I read one review where the critic lamented that there was no sequence where Lincoln walked the streets of Richmond after it’s fall too underscore the scope of the Civil War and his personal regret yet there was the scene where Lincoln moves through a very somber aftermath of a battle. Critics complained there weren’t enough battle scenes. There were at least three scenes that spoke loudly of the battles fought without my even remembering a gunshot and one scene in particular that was rather jarring without there even being the scene of a battle. There was a complaint by another critic or rather a compliment to Sally Field and how she could fret. I don’t think that critic and I saw the same movie.
There were two things when I decided to see Lincoln where I wondered how they would impact the overall film, the length and the score. John Williams score is simply perfect it accomplished what any good movie score should accomplish which is serving the film and not competing with the film. I actually checked my watch just to gage how the time was moving and was shocked to see how quickly this film moved considering the length and the story.
Spielberg should now retire and live on the laurels of this film. It’s his masterpiece. He has succeeded in combining the artistry of David Lean, the ability to deal with actors like Billy Wilder, and the epic quality of Cecil B De Mille. Yes epic. Even though this film is limited in the design and decoration it’s epic. The sets are perfect. The cinematography enhances each scene. I never believed he could top Schindler’s List. He did and then some. It isn’t as laborious as Amistad or as violent as Ryan or as terrorizing as Schindler and there were moments in Lincoln where you could reference all three of those prior films.
Daniel Day Lewis is mesmerizing as Lincoln. It was the strangest feeling having Lewis blur the lines between himself and Lincoln. You knew it was Lewis but his performance is seamless and effortless. It’s DDL’s best performance ever. I like DDL a lot but I’ve never seen him at the top of his game as he is here. I was struck by the way he walked from the White House when he thought he was late to meet Mary too go to the theater. It was strange and yet both DDL and Spielberg managed to pay that much attention to the way a tall man who was tired and worn would walk. The voice needs no further commentary it simply embodies the performance.
Tommy Lee Jones is scrappy and funny and loud and abrasive and determined. He has added to his resume another fine performance. The surprise is Sally Field. I stated when she was announced that she was perfect for this role and I believed she was based on her ability to portray hysteria. I remember distinctly Field at the funeral scene in Steel Magnolia’s and although it’s a moving scene it’s quite over the top. Somehow Spielberg manages to get from Field that same hysteria without the overblow soap opera performance. I can’t recall ever seeing a bitchy Sally Field and boy she brought that to the table. She has a moment of hysteria and yet it’s not the hysteria we all expect it’s so controlled that you have to applaud the woman. There isn’t a single performance off key in this film. I remember one critic saying that famous faces walked through this movie and yes they did but damn there wasn’t a single performance that missed a beat.
What was fascinating however was this, for two and a half hours you could hear a pin drop in this theater. I went to an 11;25 am showing with a very mixed audience, young, old and diverse; and the theater was half full, the only time you heard anything was when we all laughed at appropriate places designed for us to laugh. Otherwise you didn’t even hear anyone cough. And then the applause afterwards.
It’s brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that was as intelligent and as moving at times as this was. It’s strange there are moments even though slavery is not really dissected you can feel yourself being drawn into the emotional abyss that many slaves must have felt during that time. One also has too applaud Spielberg’s high lighting the plight of veterans in a very subtle manner it’s not obvious but it’s there.