This is not so much a ‘movie’ but rather a series of beautifully lit and carefully crafted tableaux of various scenes featuring the ‘great man’, often in silhouette and in characteristic pose. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance is almost chameleon-like and, after a while, the viewer completely forgets even the ‘muttley-like’ vocal mannerisms, as one is swept up in his remarkable evocation of the gaunt, lantern-jawed president.
The nub of the story is the passing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (basically, to abolish slavery). As such, if it had been called ‘The 13th Amendment’ it would not have been mis-named. There is a great deal of politicking going on: we see Lincoln as the consummate exponent of that art, ladling out home-spun apple pie homilies when necessary combined with the occasional table thump just to remind all present of the steel within the velvet glove.
There is too, Lincoln the family man, adeptly pacifying wife Mary, who is sympathetically portrayed, by Sally Field, as a skilful politician in her own right. Together they endure the torment of a son who feels compelled to go to a war she is convinced will claim him as yet another victim of that internecine carnage.
Surrounding them there is a wealth of acting talent on show prominent amongst which is Tommy Lee Jones, as Thaddeus Stevens, the Republican staunch anti-slavery campaigner, and David Strathairn, as Secretary of State, William Seward. But, chipping in with what might be the most engaging performance is James Spader, playing William Bilbo, a political lobbyist and early incarnation of the type of character one might imagine being on the books of the White House during Nixon’s inglorious reign.
It all makes for an interest view, albeit a very brief one (the ‘action’ takes place over a four month period towards the end of Lincoln’s presidency, and life) but is marred by the usual Spielberg traits that will, in all likelihood, prevent him being regarded as one of the greats himself: his seeming inability to avoid the kind of mawkish sentimentality that has the viewer now and again hunting anxiously for the sick bowl!
Very rarely, a film comes along driven by a central performance of such power and verve that you realize how important is the cinematic art and leaves you pondering why it has become quite so debased. Steven Spielberg's engrossing biopic "Lincoln" is not the usual IMAX fodder and neither is it designed to make many easy concessions to the audience in terms of historical narrative or political understanding. It is based on a central part of the best political book of recent years Doris Kearns Goodwin's mammoth "Team of Rivals" and does cry out for a depth of knowledge of the American Civil War and the nature of the 13th Amendment to pass the abolition of slavery into the US Constitution. From this, you may conclude that its dry and dusty political drama. You could not be any more wrong.
At the heart of the film is Daniel Day Lewis. His performance is completely thrilling and overpowering. Kearns Goodwin has paid him the huge compliment when she recently stated that "Daniel Day-Lewis perfectly and uncannily embodies Lincoln - from the way he looks to his mannerisms, voice, speech and conviction". As an actor, he is renown for inhabiting the part but here you will never be able to think of Lincoln again without thinking Day Lewis. He embodies all elements of the Lincoln character, he owns the cinema and you realise that you are again watching the greatest living screen actor showing how it should be done. Spielberg has long harbored a desire to make a film about the greatest American President and he has found the right man for the job. Even today the Civil War remains the great fault line in American politics and at its heart is the genius of Lincoln a politician who in the US has almost garnered saint-like characteristics (go to the memorial in Washington DC and try not to be moved), The brilliance of Kearns Goodwin's book was to show him as a warts and all politician who could plot and scheme with the best of them. He used his folksy Illinois guile and savvy to navigate his way through the greatest unfinished conundrum left by the Founding Fathers the question of slavery, yet at the same time could rise to the political summit in terms of his breadth of vision and oratorical genius. Somehow Day-Lewis captures all these dimensions.
Spielberg's film pitches right into the action with Union soldiers faces squashed into the mud by Confederate boots and Lincoln discussing the Gettysburg address with his troops following the battle. The film is a slow starter as we become aware of the great characters of the age not least Lincoln's "indispensable man," his Secretary of State, William Seward played wonderfully by David Strathairn, his tortured wife Mary "Molly" Todd Lincoln manically played by Sally Field and a superb supporting role in the form of Tommy Lee Jones who brings to the great leader of the Radical Republicans Thaddeus Stevens, a performance of such roaring gusto that he steals every scene. His attack on a pro-slavery democrat House of Representatives member is a tour de force as he spits out with cold disdain "How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio? Proof that some men are inferior. Endowed by their maker with dim-wits, impermeable to reason, with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood". Spielberg has finally done the historical charter of Stevens a great service and rescued him from the "mad abolitionist" of previous portraits. Equally his telling of the story of the passing of the 13th Amendment is a model in terms of tension and pace. The introduction of James Spader heading a team of unscrupulous political lobbyists in the direct employ of Lincoln adds some nice humour.
Certainly the film has mistakes. Many will point out that Mary Todd Lincoln never attended debates in the House, that black people in the film are largely "bit part players" and its ending does become hagiographical as it moves into Lincoln's death bed scene and his second inaugural speech. But these are small complaints. This reviewer was lucky enough to see this terrific film in a packed cinema in the Mid West and it has done roaring business across the US. It is proof that not all cinemagoers want endlessly dull 3D Marvel Blockbusters or the great President cast as a "Vampire Hunter"! Films that make you think, that chart the struggles of enlightenment and which resonate for today's events are rare beasts. If there is any justice in the world "Lincoln" will be recognised for what it is; namely a truly great film with a compelling central performance, a stellar supporting cast and subject fully deserving of this lavish treatment
on 30 January 2013
It's January 1865 and Abraham Lincoln is worried. Not about his voters, he's been convincingly re-elected. Not even about the Civil War, which is clearly heading towards Union victory, although he would dearly like to cut short the slaughter. No, slavery is on his mind. His Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed the slaves in rebel territory and apparently set the ball rolling to end it forever in the USA - but Lincoln knows that after the war this and other measures he took may be subject to legal scrutiny and could be reversed. Not only would this be a great wrong, it would render futile the sacrifices made so far and sow the seeds of future conflict. So he has to secure an amendment to the US Constitution outlawing slavery once and for all.
This film is not a bio-pic about a great man, nor a history of a great war, nor an account of the ending of a great evil. It's about one episode which brings together all three, and in a surprisingly intimate manner. If the Constitution is to be amended both houses of Congress must approve the change by 2/3 majorities and it must then be ratified by at least three-quarters of the individual states. The Senate has passed the measure, the states will ratify, but first it must get through the House of Representatives where Lincoln does not have the necessary votes (but does have some inveterate enemies). Basically the film is about how the gets it through.
That makes the film sound a bit like an episode of "The West Wing" and yes, viewers will detect similarities: the engrossing political lobbying, manoeuvring, and horse-trading are all there, leading up to a dramatic final vote. But there is so much more: the back-cloth of the Civil War with due reminders of its savagery, the wider political struggles, and above all the personal lives of the Lincoln family. We know from his political actions that Lincoln is no plaster saint, great man though he is, but we get some insight into his inner convictions about the greater good that drive him to act as he does, and we see him as man battling with grief, striving to keep his family together and maintain his loving if fraught marriage.
There are many good performances and Spielberg's direction is almost flawless, but at the heart of the film is Abraham Lincoln and ultimately the film stands or falls on the actor who plays him. And here, at the heart of the film we have, not an actor playing Lincoln, but the man himself. Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the role; he becomes the president, in build, appearance, mannerisms, speech and voice. It is a truly great performance and it's difficult to praise it too highly. It will go down in film history as one of the great character portrayals, and it raises the film to a whole new level.
on 13 July 2013
Meet this great man in his natural habitat, where politics is literally home-made.
Steven Spielberg has created a believeable backdrop for this most American of all American heroes.
Based on research and the latest biographies on Lincoln, and supported by excellent acting by Mr Day-Lewis, we get to see how politics and family life were handled in much the same way by this famous President.
A mild manipulator and a teller of anecdotes, yet Lincoln showed power when it was needed, as a President, as a Father, and as a Husband.
Fight for freedom and equality took immense courage from a man who knew that the immediate outcome of freedom would be misery and starvation: one in every four former slaves died from starvation. There was not enough work in the following years, and wellfare had not been invented.
The complex role of Lincoln's wife is wonderfully played by Sally Field. Balancing on the verge of a mental breakdown, she was still a force to be reckoned with in matters of state, and in matters of family.
Lincoln had to please her as well as politicians and voters, and he did. Everybody knew the power behind his kindness and anecdote-telling, and after watching Lincoln, The Film, we know, too.
Bodil Marie - For Better or for Worse
on 25 June 2015
What an interesting man Abraham Lincoln was! This film is one of the best historical films that is a true story, though slightly a bit too long for me. Daniel Day-Lewis is superb as Abraham Lincoln with his kind eyes and gentle nature, yet incredibly astute judgement. His ability to convey a principle by an illustrative story is amusing. Abraham's sense of humour shows when he told the story about his visit to London; upon needing the loo, he saw a picture of George Washington on the wall nearby. Why put the picture THERE? He jokes: “Nothing makes an Englishman s*** quicker when seeing that picture!” The script is excellent with its eloquent phrases, especially the insults and putdowns in the Congress Hall. Tommy Lee Jones excels as the Senator with the most acerbic, yet amusing wit, able to show anyone look a fool they really are, quite enjoyable banter. This film shows the grim reality of war in general, more specifically the American Civil War during 1865, with Negroes’ fighting for freedom in 19th century North America, and Lincoln creating the 13th Amendment to end this bloodshed. War is a glorified form of murder bent by man's political stupidity. Well made, and evokes strong emotions of justice and fairness.
There's no doubt that this is a well made, well intentioned film about a crucial moment in history. The trouble is it's not a particularly enjoyable film to watch because it lacks emotion and warmth, which is usually something you can rely on Speilberg to provide. This is largely down to Daniel Day Lewis. Yes, he's a fantastic actor. Yes, he does a fantastic job of transforming into a different character. The trouble is here that different character seems to be the Lincoln Memorial. You know when people steal a knome and take photographs of it in front of famous landmarks? Well that's what parts of Lincoln look like; like someone has held a miniature Lincoln Memorial into shot. It's off putting to be honest and because of it Lincoln never seems more than a superficial character. The fact that someone can win an Oscar for doing an impression of a statue is amazing, one wonders whether he would have won if he had been doing a similar impression of a statue from another country. Aside from that, I like the intentions of the film, it doesn't glitz things up much and is nicely understated letting the 13th amendment take centre stage.
The fight to pass the 13th Amendment.....................
a remarkable and intense account of 'Lincoln's' determination to abolish
slavery in the Southern States.
Not only has he to find a way of convincing 20 members of the Democrat party,
he also has many within his own ranks to convince.
Four million slaves await for outcome of the vote.
agreement will hasten the conclusion of hostility paving the way to reunite
All men are created equal.........????
'Steven Spielberg' again delivers quality as he has over and over again down
the years, along with a mesmerising performance by 'Daniel Day-Lewis'
The film has many outstanding performances on board in this powerful drama,
another 'Spielberg' classic surely.
A long, slow paced film. Apart from the obvious ones, not knowing who each person was made it difficult to understand any importance as to their role in the 13th Amendment. A film for America and not a global audience. With "House of Cards" and "Boss" covering politics and manipulation for votes, these seemed quite tame. They should have gone the mini-series route and given more time to background and introduction of characters.
Competent acting but the direction was a bit dubious at times - the long pauses in quiet during the vote was so unrealistic and tedious. Doesn't hold a candle to "12 Years A Slave". Recommend avoiding.
on 7 February 2014
As a non-American, the story of Lincoln abolishing slavery was not one I was familiar with from schooldays. It was odd to see a time when politics was just for white men. And those men thought they were living in a democracy.
On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln seemed genuinely interested in what ordinary people had to say.
I have read that Mrs Lincoln’s dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley (played by Gloria Reuben) had a far more interesting life than was explored here. She started out a slave, repaid the woman who bought her freedom and became a businesswoman. There is a bit of the "white saviour" narrative about this film. Were Mr Spielberg to read this review (lol), that would be the one thing I would want to say to him.
Being Radiant Rose, I watched this because James Spader was in it (yes, playing a somewhat sleazy person. Although, political fixer, so what do you expect?). His performance was good, but his role was smaller than I had hoped.
It's almost superfluous to say how impressed I was by Daniel Day Lewis’s performance. I forgot he wasn’t an American. Or a real president. I had heard mixed things about Sally Field's performance but thought one of her scenes was very good. Mindful of Amazon’s “no spoilers” rule, I won’t say which one.
Nor will I disclose the scene relating to Lincoln’s murder was so moving even though even I knew enough American history to see it coming.
The film is not something I would normally watch. I viewed it in two sittings; it wasn't something which "glued me" to my seat. However, it was well-made and there was some variety in the different scenes.
on 12 July 2013
Lincoln is a 2012 American epic historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The screenplay by Tony Kushner was based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of Lincoln's life, focusing on the President's efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives.
The film was produced by Spielberg and frequent collaborator Kathleen Kennedy, through their respective production companies, Amblin Entertainment and the Kennedy/Marshall Company. Filming began October 17, 2011, and ended on December 19, 2011. Lincoln premiered on October 8, 2012 at the New York Film Festival. The film was co-produced by DreamWorks Pictures and Participant Media, and released theatrically by Touchstone Pictures in the United States on November 9, 2012. The film was released on January 25, 2013, in the United Kingdom, with distribution in international territories by 20th Century Fox.
Lincoln received widespread critical acclaim, with major praise directed to the acting, especially Day-Lewis' performance, as well as the direction and production merits. In December 2012, the film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director for Spielberg and winning Best Actor (Motion Picture – Drama) for Day-Lewis. At the 85th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards including Best Picture; it won for Best Production Design and Best Actor for Day-Lewis. The film was also a commercial success, having grossed more than $275 million at the box office
Lincoln received worldwide critical acclaim. The cast was notably lauded, especially Day-Lewis, Field, and Jones. The film currently holds a 90% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 242 reviews with an average rating of 8/10, with the critical consensus "Daniel Day-Lewis characteristically delivers in this witty, dignified portrait that immerses the audience in its world and entertains even as it informs." On Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the film has a score of 86 (out of 100) based on 44 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim", thus making it Spielberg's highest rated film on the site since Saving Private Ryan.