Lincoln: Stephen Spielberg’s latest film, is a production that I (along with other cinema enthusiasts who become giddy at murmurs of Oscar-worthy films) was anxious to experience. This past weekend, I wrestled the crowds of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 fanatics and bought a ticket to the film starring Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, both academy award winners who shine in almost every performance. I settled into my seat and prepared to enjoy the 2hrs and 45mins movie that I likely didn’t have the time to watch. But hey, true movie buffs make sacrifices.
Verdict: This film was not worth the sacrifice (or the annoyance of the overly anxious teenage girls lined up for the latest Twilight film). It was uninspired, dry, and a long-winded ode to America’s “most-loved” president. I know what you are thinking. “Any half-wit could guess that this film would be a virtual tribute to the glorious United States of America and its ability to abolish slavery after a long history of building the bloated and prosperous country on the backs of blacks.” Trust me, I get. But, what I don’t understand is why Spielberg would choose to turn an amazing snapshot of history into a biopic that truly felt like a university text book brought to the screen (and, not the surprisingly relevant and engaging type of text book. The one’s that you barely crack open throughout the semester and you primarily use as a coaster. As a history major, I am very familiar with the type).
Spielberg was wise to cast Day-Lewis who was consistent in his performance and undoubtedly solid. However, there was little character development and no meaty substance as to who Abraham Lincoln was as a husband, father, and more importantly, a white man with incredible power, who had a specific vision and determination to push for a life of freedom for all black Americans in an era where this mindset was typically reserved for a niche group.
The dialogue was dull and the writing was extremely generic. I felt like I was being force-fed a series of historical facts, rather than being tricked into absorbing a worthy piece of history through skillful storytelling with a rich script, cinematography and score—ingredients of a successful biopic if you ask me.
But if there is one element of this film that truly cut to the core, it was its lack of black characters. This movie had the potential to showcase some of the industry’s most talented black actors. After all, it is a piece of their ancestry that is being told at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there were less than a handful of non-white characters in Lincoln and they all had only a few lines. As far as I’m concerned, it was a gross display of tokenism, a waste of what could have been a beautiful opportunity to tell Lincoln’s story in a multidimensional manner.
Better luck next time, Mr. Spielberg.