Movie Review: Lincoln

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson

Rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language, Running time 150 minutes, Drama/History

Compare to: Gandhi (1982), Schindler’s List (1993)

After all that Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg have achieved separately, it almost seems strange that this is the first project they’ve worked on together. You would think they would’ve realized sooner the kind of film they could collaborate on to go to win an award for this and for that. Well, here it is and Lincoln is bound to be exactly what was just described.

This film opening the same day as the last Twilight movie. Ahhh….makes me laugh.

Set during the last few months of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, we’re given the set up of Lincoln and his cabinet attempting to end the war against the Confederates as well as their war with the House of Representatives on what to do involving slavery. While at this point in his career, the Civil War seems inevitable to end while the debate about African Americans’ freedom doesn’t seem likely to change. While it’s obvious (to a point) how this story ends, how it happened gives an entirely different perspective on Lincoln’s last days.

With a pretty large and exceptional cast, the film has a lot to contend with, seeing as how common it is for any film based on a president to be much more melodramatic than should be, but it retains its seriousness without the air of stuffiness that accompanies so many of these dramas. While we have our moments that teeter in the edge of pretension, we never quite go over and thankfully too; all of it adds up to give the notion that Lincoln’s last days weren’t lived out in the most amazing time of his life! …but rather in intimate, contemplative fashion.

Much of the camerawork involves slow panning shots around to Lincoln’s face, often after everyone has left him to his own. It was enjoyable to give thought to what he might be thinking at such a poignant moment in human history. They toy with the idea that he was aware of how this would affect generations to come which is an interesting idea on its own.

Some of the more humorous scenes stem from Lincoln’s hired group of lawyers independently trying to win over the cabinet members outside of the House. Their tactics involve bribery, verbal persuasion, and annoying them until they just agree. James Spader is especially funny as W.N. Bilbo, a man who resembles more of a hobbit with little tact or manners, but he knows how to get his man.

Daniel Day-Lewis is to acting what Chuck Norris is to the idea of what a man is. While Chuck Norris “facts” have served him well over the past few years, even further solidifying his position of masculinity in pop culture forever, Day-Lewis doesn’t seem to know how to act without putting every bit of himself into the part. Even then, it’s understated; Day-Lewis damn near appears to become whoever he decides to portray, be they real or fictitious. When you look at his face staring into nothing while considering everything, you won’t see Day-Lewis, but the closest living physical embodiment of Abraham Lincoln we’re ever going to see on screen. One disadvantage many of the more famous actors have as far as their actual acting ability is concerned is that they are always themselves, their characters never being fully developed but transforming into that actor. This figure becomes Tom Cruise rather than the other way around. Not so with Day-Lewis.

Spielberg has done for Abraham Lincoln, his cabinet, the times, etc.,  what he did to dinosaurs for me as a kid; if the real thing were to be proven as nothing as what he has his production crew and actors have put together for us on screen, I’d be shocked.

It’s much appreciated, this film. In times of political ambiguity and division, Lincoln is a film that seems to analyzes a president without attempting to criticize his character and motives. While in reality, Lincoln’s motives were not entirely for the betterment of another race, it doesn’t shy away from anything while still promoting someone in a position of power in America as being integrally sound. We’re hard pressed to find a figure like that today. While it’s clear that not everyone was a fan of Lincoln even then, it’d be interesting to know if anyone in today’s political world will be looked back on as having even close to the caliber of character Lincoln is seen as having.

Grade: A

 

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One Response to “Movie Review: Lincoln”

  1. Orwell Says:

    Lincoln did defy the international bankers by printing a non-debt based currency (which was probably the real reason he was assassinated) and also issued the Emancipation Proclamation (though this was largely symbolic and did not actually free any slaves) so he does deserve some credit. But while I’d love to buy into the fantasy that he was a selfless American Moses, we can’t forget that Lincoln ignored the constitution to wage war on people that no longer wanted to live under the US federal government. He brought Federal troops into the homeland to police Americans, declaring martial law and suspending Habeus Corpus. Some might say he was guilty of treason. I can think of one statesman alive today that would never have violated the Constitution to preserve the Union, but men such as that are rare indeed.

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