Directed by Steven Spielberg
On the "Journey to Lincoln" supplement included with the Blu-Ray release of Spielberg's highly patriotic, politically motivated, pseudo-testament to Abraham Lincoln, the prosaic director depicts his first visit to the Lincoln Memorial at the age of five. He describes feeling overwhelmed by the scope and size of this former president, and getting an overall sensation of safety and patriotic warmth, something most kindergarteners experience on a regular basis. Spielberg then goes on to discuss the importance of capturing the inherent realness of Honest Abe and of telling a story that would act as a testament to the man and his memory. Presumably, this is why he decided to truncate Tony Kushner's (Angels in America) 550-page screenplay down to a 70-page section detailing the shady politics that went into passing the emancipation proclamation. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with Spielberg's politics and how this particular — highly significant — sidebar mirrored some of the battles going on in the modern Democratic arena. Reducing the life of a real man — one that had a very intriguing and interesting presidency, changing the lives of many — to a sounding board for a 21st Century election would just be self-serving and tacky. But, sadly, that's exactly what Spielberg did with this pompous, humourless and outwardly laughable superficial ode to narrative repetition and heavy-handed audience manipulation. Each sequence starts with Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day Lewis, doing his best In Living Color sketch impression) telling a meaningful story to soldiers, colleagues, family and occasionally an inanimate object, and ends with a low angle shot zooming in on a forefather making an important speech while the music swells obnoxiously in the background to tell us just how vital it is. If it weren't for the fact that it all becomes laughable after the pattern repeats itself for the 30th time, Lincoln would be the most painfully dull and redundant movie-going experience ever. However, embracing the sheer self-righteous indulgence of it all and counting things like racial slurs, utterances of the term "emancipation proclamation" and Sally Field outbursts gives the entire ordeal an unintended, but highly effective comedic element. The fact that anyone took this facile nonsense seriously just speaks to the blinding nature of nationalism and the effectiveness of name branding. (If Spielberg, Kushner and Daniel Day Lewis are involved, then it must be good!) On the upside, some of the sets were sort of kick-ass and the costuming was pretty accurate.
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