Saturday, September 15, 2012

Does the First "Lincoln" Trailer Look Like More Than a One Act Show?

Daniel Day-Lewis
Update: A review has been posted here.

On Thursday during a special live chat with director Steven Spielberg and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, they released the first trailer for the new film Lincoln, which details the life of American president Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) as lived a life freeing slaves and bringing peace to a divided country. Many have been looking forward to it, believing that the team-up of blockbuster extraordinaire Spielberg and the mastermind acting of Day-Lewis would bring some inspired results. The results were a little... odd.

This is the trailer that premiered on Thursday.

My main concern with the trailer is that people are mistaking a great performance for a great movie. While it is too vague to tell if Day-Lewis will actually be as great as his reputation in bringing the president to life, his brief moments of rallying the troops seems to enthralling. Even the voice seems like an inspired choice. Day-Lewis doesn't half-ass these performances, and I feel that he will manage to save the production no matter how it turns out to be.

However, my concern has been long established going back to the release of Spielberg's last period piece: War Horse, which detailed the story of a horse's journey through World War I and made him the centerpiece of the entire movie. It was a bold move that only a name like Spielberg could get away with. 

The problem with humanizing a horse, though, is that it doesn't translate well. While it is easy to make it look majestic as it strolls across the battlefield, it is impossible to have actors have heart wrenching scenes with. It just looks too ridiculous. The movie suffered from these performances which were all upstaged by horses. Most of all, the collaboration between Spielberg and longtime composer John Williams (which also earned it an Oscar nomination for score) only made matters worse by forcing us to feel like we needed to cry. It was more of a demanding movie as opposed to a personal experience.

This isn't to say that Spielberg will immediately become super sappy from now on. I am just worried that he cares too much for these subjects to make an interesting movie. The horse was treated too well, and I worry that Lincoln (though he will get shot obviously) will have the same treatment. We will get a bias view on his life, where he somehow manages to get all of the sympathy necessary to make you cry for the liberties he bestowed upon us.

This isn't to say that it isn't a stellar cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones are also in here, and the cast in general looks a lot better. However, the trailer still leaves me with the same sensation I got watching War Horse. It feels too sappy and devoid of real authenticity when it comes to epic battle scenes. This shouldn't stop Day-Lewis from scoring an Oscar nomination, but I worry that like War Horse, this could earn an Oscar nomination simply because Spielberg is high caliber. 

The trailer doesn't sell me on this being an amazing movie, but then again, very few trailers can do that. The John Williams score is probably the worst offender, but may play better when the scene is played in the movie. As of this trailer, I doubt that this should receive anything but a few acting nominations.

What do you think? Am I over analyzing this historical biopic? Am I just too concerned that this will be another War Horse? Do know that I still think Day-Lewis could kill as the lead and make it essentially better, but as far as narrative goes, I worry that it will be very lackluster.

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