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‘Lincoln’ Early Reviews: Praise for Daniel Day-Lewis & Tommy Lee Jones, Spielberg Exercises Restraint

'Lincoln' Early Reviews: Praise for Daniel Day-Lewis & Tommy Lee Jones, Spielberg Exercises Restraint

Early reviews are coming in for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” NYFF’s secret screening on October 8, modestly praising Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance and a “scene stealing” turn by Tommy Lee Jones as Thadeus Stevens. Critics are less impressed with the talky amendment-passing that occupies the majority of the film’s long running time. Review roundup below.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist:

“Characterized by refreshing restraint, its passionate convictions and patience, if Steven Spielberg’s worst tendencies are his propensity for the sentimental and overwrought (as evinced recently in much of  “War Horse”), his latest, “Lincoln,” thankfully possesses almost none of those unfortunate traits. However, as a two hour procedural about the ratification of an amendment in the House Of Representatives (does anything sound more appealing as a premise to you?), “Lincoln” is also not exactly the most engaging nor well-paced picture either.”

Eric Kohn, Indiewire:

“At two hours and 30 minutes or so (no one was quite sure of the runtime beforehand), “Lincoln” contains only a single battle scene in its opening seconds. The rest is pure talk, a keen dramatization of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s tome “Team of Rivals,” that delivers an overview of Lincoln’s crowning achievement in chunks of strategy talk. Ostensibly a well-acted history lesson, it captures the turmoil of the period by observing Lincoln at work rather than wasting time valorizing him.”

Katey Rich, The Guardian:

“The backroom deals and legal hurdles to make that happen are immensely complicated, but after some bulky exposition this wheeling and dealing among lawmakers makes for the film’s strongest scenes. Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) hires a trio of hooligans (John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson and James Spader) to rustle up votes for the amendment through whatever means necessary, while on the floor of the House of Representatives, anti-slavery lawmaker Thaddeus Stevens (a gloriously scene-stealing Tommy Lee Jones) bellows at pro-slavery Fernando Wood (Lee Pace), with the roomful of men around them banging on their desks and shouting over each other. If only modern American politics were remotely as entertaining.”

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Jeremy E

After coming from that nightmare of a screening (started over an hour late) I must say that I find it to be one of Spielberg's least entertaining works. As a huge kushner fan, I am most disappointed in the screenplay and found the first hour to be nearly painful, aside from the acting. TLJ and Sally Field have great moments, (complete with the necessary Oscar clip) and could be nominated. DDL was great, but actually expected more (again, faulting the writing). Plenty of below-the-line nominations but absolutely NO CHANCE FOR BEST PICTURE OR DIRECTOR nominations. Sorry, this year is just turning out way to competitive. Well-meaning, nicely shot film and will likely draw in masses only to bore them out of the theater.


These are the three most negative comments about Lincoln coming out of the screening last night. Why didn't you include some of the far more positive notices from Scott Feinberg or Bilge Ebiri?

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