Starring: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Coming in at number 10 on my list, I was super, super stoked to watch this movie. I had read the book about a year ago and thought it is Seth Grahame-Smith's best book (he also wrote Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Sense & Sensibility & Seamonsters). The book is told in diary form so I was very interested to see how the movie would approach the story. Luckily, the movie doesn't stray too far from the book's tone and was actually a really fun movie.
It's not very hard to explain the story - it says it right in the title. Abraham Lincoln's mother dies from the hands of a vampire, although he does not know this himself until later when he gets recruited by another vampire hunter. Eventually they become a team - taking out vampires hiding as friendly locals. But soon they learn the fate of the nation is at stake when the Civil War breaks out - the South is pretty much made up of powerful vampire plantation owners. And it's up to Lincoln to stop them.
If Lincoln wasn't already larger than life, this story sets to make him more legendary than real history could ever imagine. Who doesn't like the idea that one of our most beloved presidents having a secret life? The story is great territory to explore the ideas of myths and legends and how we interpret those characters and possibly exploit them for our own world views/ideals. Now don't get me wrong - this is something I've read into the book and movie - this is first and foremost an action movie. And it's a blast!
I've been a fan of Bekmambetov - I thought Wanted was a great, great movie and visually one of the coolest action films. This story fits well with that slow-motion, trippy style he loves to use. And although the idea of Lincoln being a vampire hunter just sounds silly, the movie does a great job at creating a very serious and deadly world where vampires are real and are a threat to the nation. The film makes you feel alongside Lincoln as he starts to grasp the nefarious and secret world that was hiding from him all along.
It's rare that an action movie makes you feel for the main character so much, but the movie takes you along his journey growing up and you can't help but be moved. As for the action - it's pretty insane - there's a lot of vampire killing and it's truly awesome! Bekmambetov knows how to shoot a good action scene and he does it to perfection here. Although there is a really awful CGI scene where Lincoln has to kill a vampire while trying to out run a stampeding herd of horses. It just seemed like they didn't get enough time to capture the animation and it was blurry and too erratic to really grasp what was happening. Other than that - flawless.
Benjamin Walker does a really good job of playing Lincoln and he's quite believable as the 16th president. But Rufus Sewell should have gotten more screen time - he's really good as the main vampire looking to take over the nation. Other than those two roles, most of the other characters are fairly two-dimensional. Even Lincoln's mentor, played by Dominic Cooper, really has no meat to chew on. They give a sympathetic backstory, but it arrives too late in the movie to care about. The one really disappointing aspect of the movie is the women. They're barely given any dialogue and only show up when absolutely needed. Mary Todd Lincoln is supposed to be Lincoln's support, but she's reduced to a babbling mess near the end when she finds out the truth about her husband's secret identity. I guess we'll have to wait for Gloria Steinem: Werewolf Killer to come out to see women get similar treatment.
Of course I'm probably reading too much into this brainless action movie - but I believe there is some underlying thematic issues about slavery and, to some degree, how we've painted over history with large brushstrokes and have glorified our leaders to some degree. Like Lincoln says in the beginning "History prefers legends to men; soaring speeches to quiet deeds." Most certainly the movie has continued the legend and has created something truly unique. In a summer filled with a lot of sequels and reboots, it's fairly refreshing to see an original tale.
Rating: See It!