Finally got round to watching Lincoln last night – finally in the sense that it’s been available to moviegoers across the water for months and has generated an unavoidable hype. Expectations were high, and were largely met. Daniel Day-Lewis is just as astonishing as he’s said to be, simply an incredible example of an actor allowing himself to disappear into a role. The dialogue is sparkling and surprisingly for a film about such a momentous time there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud humour. Tommy Lee-Jones overacts with Pacino-esque brio, and the supporting cast swarms with brilliance: Jackie Earle Haley as the Vice President of the Confederacy and Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant were my personal favourites. The person I watched the film with was distracted from fully similar enjoyment by the schmaltz, which was fairly frequent – stirring music, dramatic lighting, portentous tones – what you might call ‘West Wing 39 moments’: the point a minute from the end of almost every episode of Sorkin’s series when things would take a turn for the patriotic and soppy. There’s no pleasing some people.
If I was already pretty darn excited about seeing Spielberg’s and Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln, then reading the passage below in an article about the film in The New Republic has left me even more convinced that this will be a cinematic event to be savoured equally for its authenticity as its other qualities. But why on earth are British movie-goers being forced to wait until January, thereby missing out on the frisson of drawing parallels with the politics of today?
The credits admit to use of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals, not just as a way of claiming bona fides, but in suggesting that the words used—circumlocutory, decorous but pungent, and far more elusive than most movie dialogue—come from documents and memoirs.