Firstly Daniel Day Lewis – yes his performance is great, if there was a doubt about how good an actor he was (as if there would be) it should be put to bed now, it is a sublime performance, an actor who thoroughly understands the intricacies of creating multi-dimensioned characters and living each moment.
But therein lies the problem, the moments, for it is the moments in this film that make it so very painfully, dull. Great as Daniel Day Lewis is, and strong as many of the other cast members are, this film is fundamentally boring. I don’t just mean a bit boring, i mean it makes you want to travel back in time and plead with the house of representatives to speed the fuck up in making a decision about abolishing slavery so that Spielberg can’t have the opportunity to destroy my imagination any more. It’s tedious, towards the midway point I was nearly begging Day Lewis to take an impromptu visit to the theatre and end it all.
The problem doesn’t lie in the subject matter, it lies in the writing and the pacing of the film – slow, plodding, lacking bite. Political drama can be exciting, thrilling, even historical ones but this was not one of them. There should be a tension in the air, spines should tingle at the making of history, but they don’t, they feel drab, drawn out and the end result is a story that isn’t as celebratory as it should be.
Great films use tension in waves, they peak and soar and rumble with undercurrents. This merely rumbled with the sound of the audience snoring.