Lincoln [2012] – Movie Review

Lincoln Movie Poster

Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is the American Civil War-era story of the United States’ 16th president on his quest to get Congress to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, effectively ending slavery, something he wants done before his inauguration ceremony for the second term which he had just won. In order to do this, he must gather a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives – one that goes beyond the 56% majority that his Republican party held and into Democrat territory, a party that is staunchly against such a thing.

Lincoln is Spielberg’s best movie in a long time, something that is definitely helped by the fact that the director has been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln since he was a little boy. In this highly dignified portrait of the late American president, you are invited to delve into a world of charged polarizing politics on a story with an undertone of liberty and humanity. The movie can be divided into two halves: A strong first half sets the tone – the era, the characters, the entire situation and its framework.  The even stronger second half shows how the wheels set forth in the first half play out.

The true gem of Lincoln and what helps elevate this movie into a masterpiece is Daniel Day Lewis who incarnates the character he’s portraying to the letter – from the mannerism, to the tone. Lewis’ subtle, engaging, deep and highly emotional performance is one for the ages. His portrayal of the late American president is spot on in every sense. It never wavers, never falters, never drops from the standard that is set with the movie’s opening scene down to the last frame. He adds a sense of humanity to the commander in chief: a man who tells stories, laughs at his own jokes, cares deeply for his family. This sense of humanity gives the character an entirely new dimension.

Daniel Day Lewis is helped as well by chilling performances by Sally Fields and Tommy Lee Jones. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln. As a mother, she’s afraid for the life of the sons she still has and as wife, she’s growing more distant by her husband’s coldness towards her after the death of a child that she blames on him.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, a “Radical Republican” congressman whose goal in life is to establish equality between America’s black and white populations.  Jones is the only character in this movie that knows, deep down, that blacks are equal to whites in every way. The hurt that his character has to go through as he’s forced to tone down his convictions is passed on convincingly in a multi-layered and highly engaging performance.

However, not all acting performances in Lincoln are as great. Joseph Gordon Levitt, for instance, as Lincoln’s oldest son who wants to enroll in the army but is forbidden by his protective parents never quite finds his footing, causing the father/president-son story arc to falter and be less compelling than it could actually be. The father-son story that is interesting, however, is Lincoln’s relationship with his younger son Tad, played by Gulliver McGrath, as a young boy who wants his father to curl up next to him besides the fireplace and look at portraits of slaves who should be freed.

Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Lincoln, did a great job at turning a mostly dialogue-driven movie into something that doesn’t drag on and, despite the extensive running time, doesn’t feel overstuffed. His take on the story is very focused and specific which in itself is a very good thing if you’re familiar with the history behind the movie, which I believe every American viewer is and should be. In a way, it is the screenplay that sets Spielberg in a certain framework that helps him not turn the movie into an overly melodramatic mess but to give it a documentary grit. However, many non-American cinema enthusiasts, who will end up watching Lincoln because of the attention it’s garnering, might end up being overwhelmed by the details causing them to care less about the story which should be front and center and seek entertainment in the acting performances that I’ve previously mentioned or other attributes that I will mention subsequently.

What helps Daniel Day Lewis in his Lincoln incarnation is a stunning make-up work that transforms the actor’s face into that of the late president’s identical twin. In fact, Lincoln is bolstered by a technical team that spans from the aforementioned makeup to the cinematography to the sound mixing to the art direction. Almost every aspect of this movie is taken care of in a way to ensure authenticity.

Lincoln is a highly engaging and entertaining film, one that stops being a historical portrayal and becomes a character study of what many Americans believe is one of their best presidents. By becoming a character study, Lincoln also becomes a movie about politics which are the wheels that get the movie rolling: how these characters interact to make legislation, how these characters use each other’s flaws in order to advance their agendas, how this presidential character so deeply believes in the sanctity of freedom, how this presidential character wants peace for his nation and for himself.

If I were an American, I’d be proud to have a movie such as Lincoln portray one of my presidents.



50/50 – Movie Review

In Jonathan Levine’s 50/50, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27 year old writer of radio programs. He leads his life normally, has a girlfriend named Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) who rarely sleeps with him and a best friend called Kyle (Seth Rogen) who’s as goofy as they come, always horny and always on the prowl. So for all matters and purposes, Adam is a regular young man with his life wide ahead of him. That is until a backache is diagnosed as a rare form of spinal cancer with a 50/50 chance of survival.

Confronted with his life continuing being as equal to the odds of getting head or tail in a coin flip, Adam begins to cope with his new reality. A therapist, Katherine (Anna Kendrick), whose a newbie at her job, begins to help him, along with the new friends he meets in chemotherapy sessions, to deal with the reality of his illness. Life will prove hard on Adam but cope he will – taking it one smile and one laugh at a time.

50/50 is not a comedy. It is also not a tragedy. It’s a mixture of both. I was surprised when watching this movie how some people were calling it a comedy because it’s really not a comedy in absolute value. There are moments in it that will make you laugh, such as when Kyle begins convincing Adam to try and hook up with girls to which Adam replies that no girl would take him since he looks worse than Voldemort. But Kyle does not relent, obviously, and uses Adam’s story as a chick-magnet.

In a way, this heartfelt approach to cancer in cinema was never done before. But as it is with cancer, the sense of morbidity and drama soon set in especially when Adam starts to realize that there is indeed an expiry date on his body, one that might be way closer than his friends tell him, trying to convince him that cancer is nothing. A scene where Adam, who doesn’t know how to drive, takes Kyle’s car and goes around getting to a point where he just parks in the middle of the road and breaks down on the steering wheel comes to mind. Or Adam sitting next to his mother (Angelica Huston in a short but great performance) and crumbling in her arms.

The performances in 50/50, especially that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, are enough to carry the movie as it is. Sure, Seth Rogen is mostly there for some very needed comic-relief and he pulls through but the weight of the whole movie is on Gordon-Levitt’s shoulders and he manages to carry it. Obviously fueled by a great screenplay, Gordon-Levitt gets his dialogue flowing smoothly, his performance varies between optimism and pessimism and portrays coping mechanisms of dealing with illness to a very realistic extent. Anna Kendrick, as the quirky and unsure therapist whose sessions with Adam are important for her thesis project, is good as well though she’s not really given enough room to stretch her wings.

Actually, none of the characters are given room to grow in 50/50 outside of the box set to them by the film’s basic plot. Adam not driving, for instance, is never pursued. Rachael’s disconnection from reality is also never examined. She drives Adam to chemo but refuses to go in because of “bad energy”. Adam’s father’s alzheimer is never used in the movie except for a sad comical moment at the beginning of the movie when he introduces himself to his son.

At the end of the day, 50/50 is a decent movie. It’s something that almost everyone would enjoy watching but don’t be set on getting blown away by it. The premise may be different but the overall execution is safe, tidy. 50/50 will entertain you on scene to scene basis. But the movie as a whole lacks in extra punch what its premise presents: a comedy about cancer.

And it’s precisely that. It’s very hard to do a comedy about cancer because sooner or later the reality of that disease sets in. The oncologist who delivers the news to Adam is so disconnected from his patient as if he was simply reciting a paragraph from an anatomy text book. And it’s precisely that which is wrong with 50/50 – it’s simply too disconnected from its main idea and soon drifts into known territory and becomes more of “seen this before” land.


Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – Teaser Poster

If you’re half as excited as I am for the upcoming Christopher Nolan Batman movie, then you must be very, very excited. Add a couple of very’s to that and you’d feel what I’m feeling. After all, how epic was The Dark Knight?

Set for a July 20, 2012 release, The Dark Knight Rises has had its teaser poster released and it is full of destruction in Gotham City. And based simply on this and the premise that with any Nolan movie, to get a city destroyed like this, he takes you on a roller coaster ride, then we’re in for one great cinematic experience.

“The Dark Knight Rises” will again star Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (Batman), Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Michael Caine as Alfred. The film also stars Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. A star studded cast that will surely work in favor of this movie.

Now, enough with the talking. Check out the poster: