(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 15 July 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article566357.ece)
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Jimmi Simpson, Erin Wasson, John Rothman
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Rating: 2.5 stars
We all know Abraham Lincoln was this American President with the funny beard who abolished slavery, delivered the Gettysburg Address, told his son’s teacher it was okay for men to cry, and at some point, went to the theatre and got killed, right? Well, if you want to watch this film without contorting your face into a million different frowns, get ready to forget everything you know about vampires, Abraham Lincoln, American history, and trains.
A film with a title like this makes you determined to hate it before you see it. That may be why I’m not sure what to think now. See, if you’re into the kind of bloody displays that 3D revels in, with random limbs and sullied blood flying at you, I suppose you’ll love an American Civil War where it’s Yankees vs. Vampires. What makes it better is that these vampires appear and disappear like the lead actors in song sequences from Tamil films of the Eighties.
I don’t know why Timur Bekmambetov decided to make a film that takes itself so seriously. Or maybe that’s the only way to go when the entire premise is so impossible. The film begins with a young Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) watching his mother suffer a terrible death at the fangs of a vampire. When one has such a traumatic past, it helps to have a friend like Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who seems to be something of a Wikipedia entry on vampires and vampire-hunting.
Of course, like any tragic hero, Lincoln will go and take a wife (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), before taking on an army of vampires. Infusing him with a love of equality and justice is his friend Will (Anthony Mackie), a free black man who sensitises him to human rights and all that jazz. Vampires don’t have the benefit of this friend, or knowledge of affirmative action and suchlike, and so fight on the side of the South. They’re headed by Adam (Rufus Sewell), who calibrates the villainy pretty nicely. There’s also a grande dame type sinister woman called Vadoma (Erin Wasson), and I’m not quite sure why she was in the film, except to further complicate an action sequence atop a speeding train.
There are moments when this vampire-hunting version of Lincoln is so incredibly duh that you want to side with the vampires. Mostly, there are moments when you feel rather uninvolved, except when some missile startles you out of your seat. How much you enjoy the action depends on how much you like the way it’s shot. I, for one, am no fan of grisly throat-cutting and eye-busting and whip-cracking. But I will guiltily admit I like the faux period look of the film.
The Verdict: Ignore the clichés, the crazy dialogue, physics, logic, history, and political correctness, and you may enjoy a primal 3D fest.