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Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ is largely stodgy, earnest and dead dull. It’s a perfectly respectable civics lesson. What it isn’t is a well-dramatized piece of cinema.

That’s because the screenplay suffocates most of the humanity from the piece, with the exception of its portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones in the film’s strongest and most empathetic performance.

The usually remarkable Daniel Day-Lewis finds one note and plays it well, but he eventually bleeds into the background like a mist. What’s most amazing about Day-Lewis is his near complete lack of habits as an actor. Every great actor has them, but Day-Lewis seems miraculously devoid of them. He could have brought this monument to life if only he had the material that would have allowed it.

That same deficiency plagues Spielberg. His trademark inventiveness is absent here, as though he were too winded from all the wall-to-wall stage play dialogue that he hadn’t the energy for much else.

 

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