I’ve been trying to catch up on all the major nominated films recently, and have now finished. Here are some thoughts on the remaining ones.
Steven Spielberg’s long gestating passion project proves to not be, as the title might suggest, a biopic of Abraham Lincoln. Instead it focuses entirely on Lincoln’s efforts to pass the thirteenth amendment; to outlaw slavery in America. Spielberg decides to avoid any visual showmanship and films in an straightforward manner, really allowing his actors to shine. The legendary Daniel Day-Lewis totally inhabits Lincoln, bringing him to life in such a way that could make people forget they’re watching an actor. He’s surrounded by an incredible cast of supporting players, headed up by a tremendous Tommy Lee Jones, as a fiery but witty abolitionist campaigner. In some ways, he comes across as just as interesting a character as Lincoln himself, preventing any of the parliamentary proceedings from becoming dull. The story may be less interesting for those who had to study US history at school, but it’s an important one, and well told.
‘Zero Dark Thirty’
Like ‘Lincoln’, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to her Oscar winning ‘The Hurt Locker’ also surprises by not really being a war film as such. The majority of the film is much more of a spy story, spent in the company of Jessica Chastain’s CIA agent, whose determination over a 10 year period ultimately led to the locating and killing of Bin Laden. The film is totally gripping throughout its retelling of this fascinating story, and even when you know the outcome, the final 40 or so minutes, depicting the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, are heart-poundingly tense. Also it sensibly avoids any sort of jingoistic ‘go America’ moment.
‘Silver Linings Playbook’
When the Oscar nominations were announced a few weeks ago, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ became the first film in over 30 years to receive nods in all four acting categories. This recognition serves to suggest that ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is all about the acting. That’s not entirely inaccurate. ‘The Hangover’ star Bradley Cooper reveals unexpected depths as a bipolar man, while Jennifer Lawrence finally actually lives up to the hype surrounding her from ‘Winter’s Bone’, something she failed to do on ‘X-Men’ or ‘Hunger Games’, particularly as she seems to be playing above her real age here. And it really is so great to see a fantastic De Niro performance again. Writer-director David O Russell, coming back quickly after ‘The Fighter’, balances the difficult tone well, and makes the film work as a family drama and as a romance.