We’ve been waiting a long time to see what Steven Spielberg has in store for us with Lincoln, his biopic on the last year of the 16th President’s life. Now, with the release of the hotly anticipated trailer, we finally get a look at what we can expect to see come November.
First off, it looks absolutely spectacular. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg have proven an inseparable partnership ever since Schindler’s List and their work together from there has been consistently stunning. With Lincoln it appears to be no different.
There are magnificent, sweeping tableaus which add such grandeur and authenticity to the period sets, even in these brief glimpses. And in more intimate moments, it seems more subdued, painterly and reflective.
Then there’s Daniel Day-Lewis. It looks like we’re in for another great transformation from the acclaimed actor. He looks the part and he sounds the part. When you first hear the voice he is completely unrecognisable, with a high pitched (yet accurate) voice that is at first off putting but then utterly compelling and draws you in.
Even though we don’t hear much from him throughout the trailer, his presence is dominant all the way through. But the quality of performances doesn’t stop with him. The stupendously starry and talented supporting cast including David Strathain, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Oyelowo and Jackie Earle Haley (among others) all have their performances sampled here and all seem to be providing the excellent work we’ve come to expect from them.
On the downside, there are some niggling little issues that seem to be coming from Spielberg’s own direction. I have made no secret of the fact that I love Spielberg and I love nearly all his movies, I think he’s a great and sorely underrated filmmaker too often maligned by critics for his sentimentality. I even liked War Horse, but on the evidence of this, it is possible that Spielberg has finally gone too far with Lincoln.
It is a trailer that wants to sell you the fact that this will be a highly emotional experience and for a film centered around this historical figure it seems like the appropriate course to take. But to me this looks like it could fall into the trap of being so blindsided by its subject matter that it becomes a complete hagiography.
The trailer picks out lines like “no man has ever been loved so much by the people” before cutting to the standard camera-dolly-in-on-person’s-awestruck-face shot set to a rousing John Williams score. This element of Spielberg’s filmmaking is getting to the point of parody now.
Lincoln will no doubt be a long film, and hopefully this trailer is misrepresentative of these segments in the film and of the film overall. For one thing, it does seem to have a fairly politicised edge to it. There is talk of Congress and the Constitution, issues that will be discussed and debated about in the election happening in a few months time.
With Tony Kushner behind the screenplay, I have faith that this won’t fall into the trap of being a complete wash out, luvvy fest and will have a keen focus on the politics. Even though parts of this trailer just seem like old hat for Spielberg, I remain positive about Lincoln and I absolutely can’t wait to see it.
Lincoln hits theatres on November 9th. Check the trailer out below.