Steven Spielberg’s much anticipated historical epic “Lincoln” premiered as a “work in progress” at the New York Film Festival on Monday night, and the reaction online was swift and supportive, especially for Daniel Day-Lewis’ star turn as President Abraham Lincoln.
Although official reviews were forbidden given the film’s “unfinished” nature, numerous reports from the screening have already popped up on film blogs. If one wanted to be cynical they might suggest that the team behind “Lincoln” has more to gain from award season bloggers hyping the film’s Oscar chances than from film critics who might be more attentive to areas where the work may fall short.
There has also been chatter that the filmmakers want to avoid politicizing the film during an election year. The official premiere will come at the closing night of Los Angeles’ AFI Film Festival on Nov. 8. “Lincoln” opens in limited release the following day, and wider on Nov. 16.
In any case, Deadline’s Mike Fleming declared Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln “overwhelming” and “his best performance.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg predicts, “I expect [‘Lincoln’] will be a sure shot for Academy Award nominations for best picture, best director, and best actor … It stands a very strong shot for further noms for best supporting actor Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the powerful Republican congressman Thaddeus Stevens and best supporting actress Sally Field, who appears as Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. In short, ‘Lincoln’ appears to be Oscar-bait incarnate.”
John Lasser at Hitfix is also enthusiastic, writing, “A surefire player throughout the upcoming awards season, ‘Lincoln’ seems like one of those films where everything comes together in the right way at the right time … It walks a tightrope without ever falling.”
In a more critical assessment, Eric Kohn at Indiewire notes, “‘Lincoln’ is seriously muted compared to anything Spielberg has done before. ‘The West Wing’ by way of a costume drama, it tracks the abolition of slavery as a series of negotiations with major ramifications only transparently stated in the final scenes.”
And Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist represents a dissenting view: “‘Lincoln’ reads, at least right now, like a prosaic, semi-compelling history lesson; the type teachers showed to you in school when they saw your eyes glazing over prerequisite text (one you need to know, but not one you’re likely going to seek out on your own).”