Lincoln (2012)

PG-13   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


Lincoln (2012) Poster

As the American Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

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7.4/10
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  • Sally Field at an event for Lincoln (2012)
  • Sally Field at an event for Lincoln (2012)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (2012)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (2012)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (2012)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Lincoln (2012)

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3 January 2013 | secondtake
7
| Moving and important...with a mind-blowing performance by Day-Lewis
Lincoln (2012)

A highly polished, restrained, important movie.

That doesn't make this an exciting movie. The acting is terrific, and filming excellent (including a color saturation pulled back to give it an old look without seeming affected). It is clearly expert in the way we expect from Steven Spielberg above perhaps anyone, at least in the mainstream conventional sense.

But there are two things that make this movie a must see. One is the content. It's about one of the two or three most important things ever to happen in this country--the fight to end slavery during the Civil War. This is such powerful stuff it will make you weep. (If it doesn't, you'll have to ask why.) It's laid out as clearly and emphatically as possible while still keeping accurate.

The second thing is simply the overwhelming performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. It is so good you forget it's a performance (unlike, for example, his intensity in "There Will Be Blood" which stood out as a work of acting above the movie). Here he is so woven into the fabric of things he is indistinguishable from the historic truth, somehow. It's really the magic of the transparency of movie-making of this kind. Amazing performance.

It seems sacrilege to say this but the movie isn't perfect. Because of its material--getting the anti-slavery amendment through Congress--it involves a lot of talk, and a lot of people that you have to keep track of. I think Spielberg did this as good as it could be done, so no criticism there, but it does mean a lack of physical and even emotional drama through much of the film. I don't mean it's dull, just that it's conversational. I also found shreds of Spielberg's Frank Capra quality of making the movies--and his subjects--a little simplified. He ties up loose ends. He makes it all a fine package, very fine. Maybe too fine for what I would call high art. At times.

I think we'll have an easier time judging it in six months, or six years. Also the subject matter makes it almost unassailable, since clearly most of us are all for the passing of any anti-slavery legislation.

See this for all the reasons you have heard. Don't miss it. Maybe down a coffee before you go, but see it no matter what. As I say, it's important. It reminds you of greatness, and that's not something to miss.

UPDATE over one year later: I see that I accepted a lot of decisions by the writer and director as their prerogative, like focussing on one issue and narrowing to a short period of time. I had no bones with the scope of the movie. But in retrospect I see how the limitations of time and scope and background also create a sense of mis-information. That is, if you want a bigger picture of Lincoln, this movie is not quite right. Its aggrandizement is also not unavoidable, like the somewhat insipid (and yet moving) recital of the Gettysburg Address at the beginning by soldiers. Overall, though, I stick to my main thought--see it, and soak up what you can, without expecting perfection. Yes, see it for what it is, nothing less.

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Biography | Drama | History | War

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