I am one of the ten percent. I am one of the ten percent of critics who did not give Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated drama Lincoln a positive review (according to Rotten Tomatoes). I was expecting a sweeping epic, and instead I got a courtroom drama. Were my expectations out of line? What did others see (not just critics, but regular moviegoers, too) that I didn’t? What did I miss?
To answer these questions, I decided to re-watch Lincoln.
In my original Lincoln movie review, I gave the film a C+, acknowledging the strong performances but emphasizing that “Spielberg, with [Daniel] Day-Lewis as his weapon, miss[es] the mark. The movie is too big and too expensive to be confined by a long, wordy script, but Spielberg doesn’t let his characters and actors breathe.”
The movie has since been nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. And my prediction that Lincoln “will bore general audiences” was way off, as most people I know have raved about it.
Upon viewing Lincoln again, I respect it a bit more. I appreciated Day-Lewis’s performance even more than it did before, though I don’t think it was the most powerful performance of 2012, let alone of his own career. I respected the performances by Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones more, too, though I still wasn’t blown away by either of them.
I certainly give more credit to the screenplay than I did before, as it is a complex, witty piece of work that does what it intended to do: deliver a detailed account of how the 13th amendment was passed.
But I still didn’t love it.
Lincoln is still boring at times; my attention waned for large segments, primarily thanks to the screenplay that, while detailed, was also too detailed. In one scene a character declares, “He’s going to tell a story! I can’t take one more story!” Amen to that. There is really no reason why Lincoln needed to be nearly three hours long.
When all is said and done, I understand why Lincoln was recognized so prominently by the Academy Awards. The movie is directed by Steven Spielberg, which automatically merits (fairly or unfairly) attention. The movie focuses on one of the most important months in American history, and stars one of the best, if not the best, actors of our time. But it doesn’t deserve the accolades. Not all of them.
And for that reason, Lincoln is the one movie I will be rooting against come the Academy Awards.