“Lincoln” isn’t nearly as sweeping or as “Oscar-bait-y” as its trailers might lead you to believe, and ironically, that’s one of its weaknesses. It could have been one of the great, unabashed American movies, but instead, it’s just a competent but muted record of an American hero with some great elements. Some will argue that its genius is taking the “myth” out of mythmaking, but it could be just as easily asserted that that’s what it’s missing. A terrific early, esoteric scene visualizes one of Lincoln’s dreams, a motif that demands revisiting.

But, it’s forgotten as soon as its introduced, which is especially regrettable since it would have made a great coda in place of the actual (and unremarkable) ending. Is this the movie Spielberg set out to make? He’s never been one for reserved filmmaking, but so many of the elements here seem like he was deliberately playing against type. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is deeply washed out and John Williams’ score is sparse – both atypical of a Spielberg film. But while the constraints of this particular work occasionally fail the director, he gets enough of it right – most importantly, a skillfully realized vision of a man wonderfully fitted to his time.

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Good)

-J. Olson

Full review: Lincoln

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