Review: The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

Released: March 31, 2017. Directed by: Niki Caro. Starring: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Bruhl, Johan Heldenbergh. Runtime: 2h 4 min.

The WWII era makes for some fascinating films. I sometimes like them more when they have different perspectives or depict main conflicts other than with the German Reich.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is the former, offering a woman’s perspective on the war from a heroic woman, which makes this unique. It tells a behind-the-action tale set during Germany’s Invasion of Poland, also offering a point-of-view of the war from those affected in Warsaw, Poland.

Antonia (Jessica Chastain), a sympathetic animal lover, and Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), the zoo director, are the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, one of Europe’s most thriving zoos in the 1930’s.

Their world changes in September 1939 during the German invasion of Poland, as bombs damage the zoo and kill many of its animals. As Polish resistance collapses, German forces began to use the zoo as a base and it effectively closed the zoo.

Despite the Nazis being in their backyard, they essentially created a temporary haven for Jewish people to evade German forces.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is beautiful because of the Zabinski’s sheer bravery – and director Niki Caro earnestly captures their humanity. Their humanity is not only the focus but the film’s beating heart, and it doesn’t flatline.

The film’s a celebration of Antonia’s bravery. Caro directs a stellar cast, and Chastain is the strongest link. She gives a performance that’s sympathetic, earnest and moving. She’s fantastic and elevates the forgettable screenplay to new heights.

Johan Heldenbergh is good as Jan, though you don’t get to know his character well enough – and he feels like an extension of Antonia’s bravery and humanity. The female characters are stronger, and Antonia’s the star of the show. I liked scenes that express her sympathy for animals and general compassion. It’s a shame that the film about her life feels so unremarkable.

Zookeeper's Wife (1)

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper’s Wife. (Source)

Daniel Brühl plays Dr. Lutz Heck, the film’s antagonist and Hitler’s zoologist, who is the keeper of the Berlin Zoo. He’s forgettable and I just call him the Nazi zoologist. Brühl is good, but Heck isn’t a good villain.

He has compassion one minute, like bringing the prized animals of the Warsaw Zoo to his zoo in Berlin since it has more resources. Then out of the blue he’s cruel and comes back to the zoo and shoots a beautiful eagle and casually tells a soldier to have it stuffed and mounted.

Creative choices done for his character are bad fictional aspects. The addition of the Hollywood fiction weighs it down, since Zabinski’s story seems fantastical enough on its own.

Though, one of the strongest aspects is the depiction of getting the Jews out of the Ghetto – and it’s a good creative choice because the real way is plain. These scenes are tense and exciting, with a heist-like vibe.

One of the main problems are random scenes that feel like they come right out of left field. Developments come with little introduction and granted, it might be because it’s fitting six years of story into two hours of film, but the editing disjoints the storytelling.

In one scene the Zabinski’s have hanky panky and when you’ve forgotten that, she’s nine months pregnant when we see her again and going into labour. There’s not even a discussion of the pregnancy or anything. I was questioning if I’d missed something or if it was some sort-of immaculate conception.

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Johan Heldenbergh in The Zookeeper’s Wife. (Source)

There’s a lot that happens in the film but it’s unraveled slowly and pacing becomes an issue. It would have been great if everything moved faster, and the dropping of boring sub-plots would have brought it well under two hours. At least it has really cute lion cubs.

The Zookeeper’s Wife doesn’t have the impact a film like this should possess, and feels light because of it. The story’s beautiful but it’s a shame that the writing doesn’t match the passion and beauty of Antonia’s story, as it ends up feeling unremarkable. There are a few moving scenes – namely when they get a glimpse into the scope of how many people they’re helping.

It also doesn’t feel mature enough. There are moments that could depict human horrors which would have packed a heartbreaking punch. Chastain delivers a monologue about how people are evil and animals are great, and it would have made the scene have even more impact if we could have seen some of the human evil that she’s talking about. Instead, the film shies away from moments, and it feels like it’s missing out on great opportunities.

Score: 60/100

What’s your favourite WWII film?

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Pompeii (2014)

PompeiiReleased: February 21, 2014. Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland. Runtime: 105 min.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson steps onto new territory for him with “Pompeii,” after directing a deadly fast car race (“Death Race”), aliens and predators (“AVP: Alien vs. Predator”) and mutated creatures (three of the “Resident Evil” movies). “Pompeii” has been described as a mix between “Gladiator” and “Titanic.” A good marketing statement considering those are both Best Picture winners; and successful at the box office, “Titanic” being wildly successful. It’s easy why people might think of “Gladiator,” because there are indeed gladiator scenes and it follows a gladiator; its “Titanic” connections are because of the class differences between the two lead love interests, and because this is a disaster film. But you know, this really doesn’t have as much Oscar potential as those two films.

Milo – a.k.a. The Kelt (portrayed by Kit Harington) – is a slave-turned-gladiator who comes to Pompeii to entertain the people with a fight to the death. He finds one thing in Pompeii that he was not anticipating; the love of the Princess of Pompeii, Cassia (Emily Browning). Cue the love triangle because corrupt Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) has his eyes set on her hand in marriage. Milo soon enough finds himself in a race-against-time to save Cassia, risking his life as Mount Vesuvius erupts, as Pompeii crumbles around him.

The fact that the relationship between Milo and Cassia is described as true love is funny considering the little they actually talk to each other. Because of that, this feels like a Disney fairy tale romance, but not particularly the charming kind. At least the relationship in “Titanic” is believable because they spend a lot of time together (enabled by the film’s runtime), but the couple here probably share twenty minutes of screen time; an hour or two real time. They’re likeable enough, but their chemistry is only okay because of that. Kit Harington is good in his role, as a slave-turned-gladiator who is the last of his villagers – the Horsemen. When he was young, he witnessed his fellow villagers be killed by Romans. Because of that his motivation is revenge, his love for Cassia, and survival. I can see some action movie star potential in him.

Emily Browning is good as Cassia, too; the pretty Australian portraying an independent woman who is put in an awkward position having to choose between an unhappy life, but good one where she’d get all she wants, with Senator Corvus; or choose a happy life with Milo, even if it doesn’t have guaranteed economic greatness. Love still seemed simpler in 79 A.D., at least the falling in love aspect of things. I mean, they hardly know each other; she’s just amazed by his kindness, and Milo sees a beautiful, independent woman. All just have to question the realism of the fictionalized romance.

Kiefer Sutherland sports a weird British accent that’s unidentifiable and inconsistent (mostly when he projects his voice) but he’s pretty good as the villain. Corvus came to Pompeii with plans of investing in the city of Pompeii, and he just happened to run into Cassia after they met in Rome. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway, Jared Harris and Carie-Anne Moss are patriarch and matriarch of royal family of Pompeii. The cast’s a good ensemble. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (TV’s “Lost”, “The Bourne Identity”) portrays Atticus, a fellow gladiator in the town of Pompeii who is one fight away from freedom. Freedom and survival is his drive, and I think he is the most interesting character out of the bunch. It’s funny, that even in non-prison movies – when a new gladiator (Milo, said to be the best) is on the block, he always gets challenged by big brutes. I find it funny.

The characters are fictionalized because the historical accuracies are based on a first-hand-account by Pliny the Younger. He couldn’t know these characters, and the relationship developments are so tailored for the big screen they couldn’t be true. I’m not saying the characters are bad, I’m just saying that if they didn’t have them, the volcano eruption would just be depicted on the Discovery Channel. People are coming to see this because it’s a disaster film with blockbuster visuals, great production design and sets that are built just so they could get destroyed; woo-hoo! It has one of the unwritten rules of disaster films; if the floor is crumbling, a character has to jump over it in a car (a horse in this case) in slow motion. I don’t think W.S. Anderson could resist doing that.

The gladiator scenes are actually exciting, too, sometimes brief – which I’m a fan of because if it’s a lesser villain against a main character, the audience knows who will win – so it’s nice that those fights don’t get dragged on. The editing during those scenes is good, not too quick and during some fights there are far away shots which I like. The disaster aspect of this is exciting (but it isn’t a fun disaster film like “The Day After Tomorrow” because, keep in mind, this is true) and it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of the eruption by the end of it all; I learn there was an initial eruption on August 24, 79; and then another the next day that was much more powerful, even though in the film it’s depicted as a powerful one erupting, and then a few others eruptions as they try to escape. For the audience, the disaster aspect is about thirty or forty minutes I’d guess; in real time, this lasted about 25 hours.

Another inaccurate portrayal is that it only portrays Pompeii as the only city that’s affected; Herculaneum and Stabiae were also affected by the eruption, but only Pompeii is mentioned. And heck, I don’t even clearly remember the name of the volcano (Vesuvius) being said. The eruption is foreshadowed by the volcano bubbling, and by horses going crazy when earthquakes occur. In all, thirteen thousand people died from the eruption; and it all happened so fast, most citizens were cemented in place (because of the mix of rain and ash, turning them into statues so to speak) in their position until the site was uncovered in 1595, over 1500 years later! Fascinating, right? Anderson depicts this tragedy with accuracy as far as the disaster goes; using blockbuster visuals, a good score, and the great cast lifts a fairly weak surrounding story to good.

Score70/100

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers ClubReleased: November 22, 2013. Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto. Runtime: 117 min.

I haven’t seen many films about the AIDS disease, but one can sure tell it’s dealt with sensitively here by director Jean-Marc Vallée. Humour is able to be written into the screenplay because of the charming cast and the characters’ personalities.

The film follows real-life electrician and occasional bull rider Ron Woodroof, a stereotypical redneck who is racist and homophobic. His lifestyle consists of drinking, gambling, drug use, and casual sex. While in the hospital because of a work-related injury, Ron finds out he is HIV positive. Denial strikes and his homophobic personality makes him lash out at the doctor, since it is a disease that (mostly) homosexuals get. He is given thirty days to live. It turns out, he contracts the disease from unprotected sex. (Cloak the joker before you poke her!) In 1985, the drug called AZT that treats AIDS is still in clinical trials – so he has to get the drug somehow under the table. He learns from a doctor in Mexico that other medicines do the trick better than AZT, and this is his story of how he helps other people with AIDS to get better.

In 1985, the cure for AIDS was still trying to be found, so this is an ideal year for the film to be set in. The way hospitals went about testing the drug AZT for human trials is where HIV patients approved for the drug were divided into two groups. One group received the legitimate drug, while the other group received a placebo drug. It’s a little ethically questionable because the patients receiving either one of the drugs are dying, so… Some might be getting better, and the others are getting sugar pills. I guess it’s the only way to tell if it works. For the patients who are simply getting sugar pills, that’s where Ron Woodroof comes in. He offers the people of Dallas diagnosed with HIV a membership to the Dallas Buyers Club, where for $400 they can have access for all of the medication they need. The reason the hospitals are so frustrated with Woodroof is because the people taking the medication aren’t being monitored, and there’s no way to tell if they’d work or not. They’re filled with nutrients and proteins that help make more cells in the immune system.

Though, the film isn’t a boring pharmaceutical film, so that’s really good. I think the storytelling is very capable because mostly it is telling an inspiring and great story. Jennifer Garner’s Eve represents the doctors of the medical community understand Ron’s motivations to help people and himself. I think the way Ron opens up to the homosexual community is very charming. He’s an innovative and smart character, and McConaughey plays him so powerfully and with ease. But that’s not saying his body transformation to play the role wasn’t easy. It also musn’t have been easy for this actor to do the full actor transformation from rom-com star to full-fledged actor. It’s a great turn-around, and he’s becoming one of my favourites – where he plays a character who lives life to the fullest, and enjoys a new outlook on life.

McConaughey opens up to the community by doing business with them, but mostly by befriending a transsexual named Rayon (Jared Leto). They become business partners and friends, and the way Ron’s eyes are opened is beautiful. Homophobia is also depicted well and powerfully throughout the film, and often heartbreakingly. One can tell that Rayon has lived through a lot of discrimination, especially in one scene that I won’t spoil. It seems that there’s always been some controversy of Hollywood casting males in transsexual roles. I think that’s what might make the role so challenging for Leto, to let himself get enveloped by the role of Rayon, a flamboyant and hilarious character. But he absolutely nails the role. Most of the stuff coming out of Ray’s mouth made me smile, even if he has frustrating habits.

There’s a sort-of kindness to the character of Ron, where he wants to give medication to the people so they can survive and also live their life to the fullest. Even though many will struggle living a normal life with the unfortunate disease. In a film about survival, I think he represents those who can change over time. This great film also shows some of the most innovative ways to change society is by going under the law; and sometimes, it’s just a necessary thing, no matter what people say.

Score95/100

12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a SlaveReleased: November 8, 2013. Directed by: Steve McQueen. Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch. Runtime: 134 min.

Imagine you’re at home enjoying your life as a free black man in upstate New York. Your beautiful wife and kids go away for two weekends, and when two men approach you with an opportunity to make some money, why not say no? One couldn’t predict that by saying yes to making a paycheck, they would then be drugged and sold into slavery. That’s exactly what happens to Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a real person sold into slavery in 1841.

The premise is part of what makes “12 Years a Slave” such a powerful film. In any case, anyone being uprooted from their life is a terrifying reality, even today. Back then, it seems that many were a bit more clever than staging a home invasion. Solomon is backstabbed by business parters he trusted, portrayed by Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam. This film might just be the one to open people’s eyes as to why the black people of today are so protective of their rights.

It’s an educational feature, and the most powerful film of the year. It’s one of my favourite slavery films as well, at least for educational purposes. I’d give this a rewatch with pleasure, which would also allow me to watch a few scenes again that I didn’t comprehend completely. I prefer Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” but that and this cannot be more different in tone. “Django,” to sum it up in so many words, is an entertaining treat. Another similarity is that both films probably hit the 100-mark with using derogatory statements, mainly the ‘n’ word. Paul Dano might have said it about 40 times it one cruel Southern tune.

John Ridley (director of “All is By My Side” which I didn’t like) adapts Northup’s 1853 novel very well, and director Steve McQueen knows what makes humans tick. This film is the platform for a harrowing odyssey of a man’s bravery and will to survive. Solomon’s drive is his family and he is making sure he does not sink into despair, by keeping their memory alive. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever see them again, but he tries to be as cooperative as possible in order to survive – which isn’t very at times, when he cares about fellow slaves. One of his friends is a woman named Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) who plays a critical role in the film. He meets her on Edwin Epps’ plantation/farm.

Epps is portrayed by Michael Fassbender, in a haunting villainous performance. Don’t be surprised to get chills from him in a few scenes. Epps is known famously in those parks for breaking his slaves’ spirits, it seems – even if his wife (Sarah Paulson) thinks he could do a better job. He is a malevolent soul, and he makes a previous slave owner of Northup’s (Ford, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) look like a saint – and he already was a very considerate man. Northup meets several characters along his long journey, helping this film have a star-studded cast, even if some big-name actors have about seven minutes of screen time (like Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Garrett Dillahunt – to name some).

There’s one main problem that the film has, it never really allows viewers be aware of what year it is. The only clue is the title. It starts out in 1841, and since there’s a scene at the beginning that shows up again in roughly the third act, we know that we’re caught up – but we still can’t tell what year it is. It doesn’t affect one’s enjoyment severely, but even cues like older make-up for Solomon would assist the film. It would give us an idea of how long he has been slaving for. There are some scenes that feel like they will go on forever, but that is purposeful in one scene to show that slaves cannot interfere when someone is being punished, so to speak. That being said, this has quite a few shocking moments – so it’s not for the faint of heart!

The film’s power is greatly prominent in Ejifor’s performance, as he tries to hang onto his humanity, not give up his hope and not sink into despair. Many slaves give up much faster than Solomon Northup, but he has something to fight for; and that’s what makes this film so inspiring and moving. It also helps it become an unforgettable experience.

Score95/100

The Impossible (2012)

The Impossible (Lo Imposible)

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland

Runtime: 114 min

Tagline: Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit.

Did you know? The real family that the main characters are based on are in fact Spanish but living in Japan at the time of the Tsunami.

On Sunday, December 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake forever changed the lives of many people, and took the lives of over 230, 000 in fourteen countries. The earthquake trigged a series of ravaging tsunamis along the coasts bordering the Indian Ocean. Coastal communities were struck with waves up to 30 meters high. All these factors make it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand were the countries most devastated by the tsunamis. The Impossible tells the true story of one of the families caught in the middle of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

Maria Bennett (Naomi Watts), her husband, Henry (Ewan McGregor), and their three sons, from eldest to youngest, Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), are on an airplane on their way to a beach resort in Thailand, where they will be spending the Christmas holidays. They’re a very regular family, they get scared, and they open presents just like everyone else on a beautiful Christmas morning. On Boxing Day, they spend the morning at the beach, just like many other tourists. However, their normal day turns awry when they hear a distant noise becoming a roar. A tsunami strikes the resort, Maria and Lucas go one way, and Henry and the two youngest, the other. Will they be able to survive and overcome the unlikely odds of finding each other?

This definitely could just be another average, inspiring story. However, it has a lot more going for it. This manages to stand out in memory as a strong, emotional, inspirational feature that is one of the most truly moving films of 2012.

The dramatic screenplay sets a canvas for great performances from the whole cast. Naomi Watts is the strongest of the bunch, but is not the only one who deserves recognition for her efforts. Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland are also fantastic. McGregor must show fear and many other emotions in the hope of finding his family. In one scene, he breaks down emotionally calling a family member back home (it might be his brother) that deems difficult for the audience member not to be moved by. For this scene alone, he really should have received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Holland also shows that his character is strong-willed because he goes off to help other families, leading to a fantastic scene that strikes like an emotional bulldozer. Holland also proves capable of carrying a film when he is called on to.

McGregor and Holland express very real emotions of desperation and despair that we’d all be feeling in this situation. The two little kids also deliver strong performances, albeit not as memorable as everyone else. They still leave an impression, and they are great enough to not be just another child actor destined for a forgettable dead-end career on the Disney channel.

These characters are strong-willed and would do anything to survive and find each other. This film is a true testament of the human spirit, much like Les Misérables. However, the obstacle those characters had to face was the French Revolution, and not 30-meters high waves. The audience can really relate to the characters, because this could really happen to anyone in any place or time. They are so real that it’s difficult not to root for them. After watching this, you’ll probably want to run home and hug your loved ones all day long.

The film is usually very realistic, even if there are some tedious scenes that rely on suspense a bit more than drama, as there are some scenes where the audience member is in their seat dying for the family members to find each other. These aspects make it not only a drama, but at times a thriller. There are intense scenes like when they are trying to find each other, when the devastating tsunami strikes the resort and Maria and Lucas are fighting to hold onto each other, and in a few dream-like sequences. These aspects keep it from turning into a melodramatic mess. Some suspenseful scenes audience members might just wish would end, because they might just be a little too emotionally draining. It all gets back on track, though, when those few times come about. One other unrealistic aspect, however, is the fact that the two younger sons seem to be well-groomed. What, did they find a hair stylist merely floating about?

Naomi Watts gets a leg that’s disgustingly prone to infections, poor Holland has a spine that looks like it was dragged across a dirt road, and McGregor gets red rings around his pupils that will spark a nasty case of pink eye. These two little guys get a few scratches. What’s up with that? Other than that little misstep, the make-up is really quite marvelous, making us think that the actors really may have been in this tsunami.

This feature is really, really quite must-see. It is endlessly inspiring and emotionally strong, even if I feel four or five minutes could have been edited out. It even has some truly amazing cinematography, and the film is simply beautiful. I feel, however, that I must give you a few warnings about this feature. 1) There are some seriously nasty injury images, specifically Watts’ leg injury, that make this a feature not for the faint of heart. At all. 2) This is not a good date movie. Well, unless your angle is to let your date see you cry deeply, then go right for it!

One more thing: If you are not emotionally moved by this feature on some level, I highly recommend seeing a psychiatrist – you might be a sociopath. Seriously.

87/100

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Did you know? “00 dark 30” in military terms means an unspecified time in the early morning hours usually when it is still dark outside, usually said as “oh dark thirty” (according to its IMDb trivia page).

Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark Thirty

Release Date: January 13, 2012 (wide release)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler

Runtime: 157 min

Tagline: The greatest manhunt in history

With Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow proves she is one of the best directors in the business. She is especially one of the best directors to direct a war or history drama.

Zero Dark Thirty is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.

The only main character, Maya (Jessica Chastain), is followed the closest during this film. The beautiful and talented Chastain does an astounding job of portraying her. She really captures the real feelings she would be feeling. The character is a highly ambitious character whose motivations get fueled by deaths of her friends over the years. As they go through a series of leads, they get to Abu Ahmed, said to be Osama’s messenger. While Maya is the main, and practically only (for the most part), protagonist, Osama is most obviously the antagonist, no matter how hidden he may be.

This film depicts the manhunt for bin Laden extremely well. While we, the audience, don’t know what exactly happened, this film gives us a general idea. And boy, is it ever usually enthralling. Especially the last hour, and it makes for one of the best sixty minutes of cinema this year. The first 97 minutes of the feature is a solid introduction of what’s to come. While it may not be entertaining, it is fascinating and I was compelled to listen to what the flick had to say.

This feature is mostly controversial for its disturbing yet oddly compelling and inarguably intense torture scenes. Bigelow’s intention wasn’t to be an advocate for torture, and she isn’t. It is simply an aspect that did happen in the hunt for Osama. Would you give up Osama’s location that easily, if they knew very well who are? A monster that ordered the 9/11 attacks? No, because he is a powerful man whose people will find and kill you. It’s a frightening thing, and one couldn’t necessarily give up that easily. They have to be tortured, no matter how bad that sounds – it’s the honest, unfortunate truth.

The controversy is embedded in the film, but this gripping feature’s purpose is to rouse the spirits of patriots everywhere. Even if you are not American, the 9/11 attacks shook the world, and this is simply a story everyone would enjoy watching unfold. No matter how sensitive the case of something like 9/11, this is an important film depicting, yes, the greatest manhunt in history. While this may not be as magnificent as The Hurt Locker, this is nonetheless a very unique and memorable experience.

In a nutshell: Zero Dark Thirty is an extremely important film that depicts the greatest manhunt ever executed. It also shows us that Osama really isn’t the ultimate winner at Hide’n Go Seek, that’s Waldo. This feature is controversial because of its disturbing torture sequences, but it is necessary to be included in a film such as this. Bigelow’s direction, Mark Boal’s expert writing, its gripping story, its astounding final sixty minutes, and Jessica Chastain’s incredible portrayal of Maya, make it one of the best history dramas of 2012. You did it again Bigelow, I can’t wait to see what you give us next.

88/100

Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln

Release Date: November 16, 2012

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn

Runtime: 149 min

Lincoln is a film that is much easier to respect or admire, than it is to enjoy and be thoroughly entertained. While it does have sparks of humour here and there, it goes more for fascination than anything else. Speaking of the humour, it is quite impressive that the writers threw that in because of the serious subject matter. Lincoln follows Abraham Lincoln’s endeavours, during the American Civil War, to pass a constitutional Amendment to free the slaves. The performance by the great Daniel Day-Lewis adds layers to Lincoln. His reserved and kind voice makes him seem quite real – and he is. The relationships he has with everyone are all very kind, and he even treats his enemies with respect. He’s the sort of guy one would want as a neighbour, or maybe even the president of the United States of America. Oh wait, he was.

The cast is great (especially Day-Lewis, Fields, Tommy Lee Jones and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the cinematography is great, just about everything that is done here is impressive. Steven Spielberg feels like a director, at this time that is not interested in directing blockbusters like Jaws or Jurassic Park, but ambitious biographies like this. With past works like War Horse, Schindler’s List, or Munich, it is evident that he [Spielberg] possesses a flaring interest for history. Though, those audience members who don’t share at least a small interest for history, may not like this all that much. It is impressive, but at times it is difficult to grasp the events that are unfolding. In that way, it’s a film better watched in a home setting – so one could pause the film after most scenes, and absorb and make sure they can comprehend the information that was just told to them. Monologue after intelligent monologue just gets packed on, and sometimes they can be hard to follow. There’s a bunch of movie buffs out there, but there may not be as many history buffs. That’s why this is quite the impressive achievement that shall be an Oscar front-runner, but it simply may not be the right choice for a casual moviegoer. Make sure your mind is fresh before you see it, and be open to having two and a half hours of information intricately thrown your way.

80/100