Taking place during January of 1865, several months before his death, our 16th President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempted to end the Civil War by passing the 13th amendment to the Constitution that would abolish slavery in the United States. Because the Civil War was being fought over this very reason, it was difficult to get the necessary votes from the House (the Senate already voted for the amendment) to bring slavery to an end, but the strong-willed President was able to use his gentle persuasion to convince the country that the only way to reunite the states was to initiate a change that would affect generations to this very day.
Directed by Steven Spielberg (Shindler’s List, Jaws, Amistad), this story involving President Lincoln is all about the political side of him trying to ratify the 13th amendment to end the Civil War. Those of you thinking this is a biography on Lincoln’s life will be disappointed. Those of you thinking this is about the Civil War will be disappointed. There is very little spent on scenes involving war battles (which is surprising since Spielberg directed War Horse and Saving Private Ryan). Having said all that, Lincoln is an engaging and informative historical drama. How much of this is historically correct you may ask? I have no idea… but I do know the writer had a script of over 500 pages (which was later thinned to 200) that he wrote over several years with much research, and with Spielberg’s name attached, I would think most of the scenes are true. Lincoln is the kind of movie that tells a historical story in a dry and dialogue-driven way with little action or thrills. That doesn’t make it bad, but it makes it a disappointment compared to other historical Spielberg films. What it does offer is some of the best acting this year, notably the lead role. Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln is uncanny with how much he looks like the historical figure. Day-Lewis has been recognized by the Academy several times before and I don’t doubt he whouldn’t this time around either. The cast here is absolutely A-list all-star to the point that actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and John Hawkes have minor roles (and both these guys this year have had successful leading roles in their own movies.) All in all, if you are a history buff, you may love this (if it is historically correct) while the rest of the movie goers looking to be entertained may feel empty when they leave the theatre. Which will you be? Co-starring Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Bruce McGill, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, and Jared Harris.
7/10 Stars – Well acted and told, I was hoping for some thrills from the war to be incorporated along with the political battles.
Lincoln is the kind of history lesson every kid wish they had in school because it is a combination of learning and entertainment. My other half is right however in that this is definitely not a biography although it is all about Lincoln but only a very short time period of his life and presidency. The script while understandably limited to a very short period of time includes some wonderful little things. For instance I think one of my favorite parts of the whole movie was when Lincoln would break out into seemingly random stories but they would always have a point. The stories were priceless and how Daniel Day-Lewis would tell them made them all the better. Aside from the story, the power of a historical film like this always rests on its actors, the wrong actors and you lose your audience instantly. Fortunately that wasn’t the case for Lincoln which relies heavily on its well-known names to carry it through. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an inspiring performance, there are moments where you truly believe Lincoln is alive and standing before you. I personally thought Tommy Lee Jones stole the show. His quirky/grumpy character association was highly entertaining and the twist to his particular story line was unexpected and refreshing for a film filled with things we supposedly already knew. My only beef with the film was the ending. Personally I think it should have ended before Lincoln was killed at the theater. There is a beautiful moment where it is after a speech he has given following the passing of the 13th amendment and his man-servant comes in to fetch him to go to the theater. As Lincoln walks away standing straight – you can kinda see him smiling from behind – his man-servant watches with tears in his eyes. It is the perfect ending. I mean we all knew what was about to happen so showing it was completely unnecessary and really took away from the power of everything they had built up the whole movie. But hey that is my opinion.
8/10 Stars – History made tolerable for those who aren’t history buffs but definitely not for everyone if you are just movie goer for entertainment’s sake.
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