Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released November 16, 2012
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Tony Kushner, based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Lukas Haas, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jared Harris
Director Steven Spielberg scores again with another compelling historical drama, this one centering on President Abraham Lincoln’s attempts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Unites States Constitution, which would abolish slavery and hopefully hasten an end to the Civil War. This narrative is the main focus of the film, but along the way Lincoln must also contend with his recent re-election, concern from his colleagues over possible harm to his good standing with the public, a battle with his older son over quitting school and joining the war effort, and worry for a wife who seems to be falling apart at the seams.
This was a more cerebral and character-driven film than an action-oriented one, with most of the story taking place not on battlefields and open country but inside courtrooms and the White House, where Spielberg’s perfectly executed direction, plenty of solid acting (Sally Field, David Strathairn, and Michael Stuhlbarg were my favorites), a realistic array of sets, costumes, and makeup, and exquisitely framed and photographed shots kept the film on an entertaining and educational course. For me, this last aspect was the one to be most appreciated: the look of the film was simply sensational, and put you squarely in the heart of the nation’s capitol circa 1865.
However, all of this took a deep back seat to the work of actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who was just remarkable and shockingly authentic as Lincoln, giving an Oscar-winning performance that—with expression, delivery, tone, and nuance—had you convinced that he was actually Abraham Lincoln. Granted, there exist no motion pictures or audio recordings of Lincoln, but Day-Lewis did his research (even going so far as to visit a museum in Illinois and asking to hold letters written by Lincoln to his generals), and I’m convinced he played the part of the president to a level of perfection never before realized in previous films.
If I had to nitpick, I would say that Lincoln was maybe a little dry in spots; at 2½ hours, that’s a lot of talk, discussion, conversation, and courtroom lectures playing out over most every scene. Perhaps if the spectrum had been widened a bit, showing us more of the life of Lincoln and less of the amendment proceedings, these lulls could’ve been avoided. As it stands, this was still an exceptional visual and storytelling experience, and a memorable look at an important facet of Lincoln’s presidency. (8/10)