Without a doubt our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, will be remembered as one of the greatest presidents in our country’s history. He is also one of the most recognizable with his signature beard and top hat. Of course the one accomplishment he is probably best known for is freeing the slaves and that deed is the focus of the new bio-pic, “Lincoln”. It stars Academy Award winning actor Daniel Day Lewis in the leading role and Academy Award winning director Steven Spielberg is at the helm.
“Lincoln” takes place 4 years after the start of the Civil War and 2 years after Lincoln won re-election. It is January 1865 and the newly elected Congress has not yet taken their new positions. President Abraham Lincoln is hoping he can use this “lame duck” House of Representatives to help get the 13th Amendment passed, which would abolish slavery. He knows he can get the backing of his fellow Republicans, but that is not enough to get it passed in the House, so he must find a handful of Democrats, who are about to leave office, and get their support. Lincoln must also contend with problems in his own home with his wife Mary (Academy Award winner Sally Field), who is a little nutty, and his eldest son, Robert, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who wishes to fight in the war.
This movie does teach an interesting history lesson, especially given the current political climate in that it was the Republican Party that fought so hard to end slavery while the Democrats did all that they could to prevent that from happening. The way things are today you might think the opposite was true. “Lincoln” is very educational and could have just as easily ended up on public television or some cable channel as a movie of the week.
Biography pictures like “Lincoln” often are more about people talking than action and this movie is not an exception to that rule. In fact, there is a whole lot of talking going on in this movie. Then there is MORE talking. Then MORE TALKING! You get the idea. If you are an up and coming actor or actress, there are a number of monologues throughout by Lincoln, Mary and other characters. Bravo to them for their memory skills, but they can really wear you down as this movie goes on and on. At one point, one character runs out of the room scared when he realizes that Abraham Lincoln is about to tell ANOTHER story. You may wish you could run away too.
This is not to imply that the acting is bad, far from it. Daniel Day Lewis plays Lincoln to perfection. If you could invent a time machine and send him back in full makeup, he could probably pass for Lincoln after he was shot and you could tell the American people he survived the assassination attempt. “Lincoln” should definitely earn Daniel Day Lewis another Oscar nomination as well as ones for Sally Field and Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Thaddeus Stevens. Every single actor in this movie is phenomenal.
Steven Spielberg will go down in cinema history as one of the most prolific filmmakers ever. Over the last few decades he broke away for being known as a “popcorn filmmaker” and has made many great serious movies like “The Color Purple”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List”. However, lately, he has made some films that are devoid of any entertainment to the point where you think he is making these movies more for himself rather than the movie going public. Last year’s “War Horse” would be an example of that. If an unknown director wanted to make one of these movies, would it really get a studio backing?
Technically, the movie appears flawless. The set design, the sound design, the costumes; everything looks authentic. The cinematography is very good. Keep an eye out for this: Spielberg keeps a shadow on Day Lewis’ Lincoln throughout the entire movie, no matter where he is, until the end after the 13th Amendment has finally passed. It was an interesting choice for sure. However, this also brings up another flaw in the movie. Recently the movie “Argo” showed that you can do a movie based on a real life event where most of the audience knows the ending, yet the movie can still be exciting and tension filled. In “Lincoln”, when the House is voting on passing the Amendment, it is hardly filled with any tension at all. The most exciting part about the portrayal of this event is when the other Democrats who wanted to keep slavery alive called their colleagues who voted to pass the Amendment, “traitors”.
“Lincoln” is one of those movies other critics seem to love while most audience members have a hard time staying awake through the entire movie. It will probably end up being a movie you will either love, or hate, perhaps feeling embarrassed that you hated it, so you lie and say you liked it. A mature audience will probably appreciate it more than a younger one, but it could be good film history teachers might choose to show to their students. It is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language.