Lincoln: Review

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Lincoln, a pet project of Spielberg’s for a long time, tells the story of the aforementioned President as he attempts to get the 13th Amendment passed by congress, emancipating the slaves and hopefully bringing the end to the Civil War.

As I’m sure anybody who has read this blog from it’s very beginnings or who just knows me in general, knows that I love Steven Spielberg. He has made some of my favourite films ever and I’m sure at least one of his films would make it into anybodies top ten.

With this in mind, despite me knowing next to nothing about the story of Lincoln, I still went into it with a certain amount of excitement.

If anything, this complete lack of knowledge about one of, if not the most important part of American History added to the enjoyment I got out of this film. I knew the iconography of Lincoln, knew he is considered one of the greatest presidents in history but nothing more than that. 

With a two and a half hour run time, the film flew by at a quick pace which is surprising considering how much is crammed into it. There are so many layers thoughout, more so than I was expecting and I was surprised to find how immersed I actually became in this world of politics.

You have the “subplots” so to speak of Latham, Bilbo and Schell who are given the mission of trying to sway votes in favour of the amendment and southern non confederate’s who want to make peace before the amendment can be passed, intertwined with Lincolns dilemma of ending slavery or the war.

With all of this we also get glimpses into the relationship Lincoln had with his family and get to see his slight dark side as well as his light.

All of this is balanced perfectly with the tight screenplay from Tony Kushner, which, considering how long this film has been in development is probably draft 133.

The dialogue comes thick and fast and isn’t dumbed down in the slightest which requires your full attention at all times as the seemingly smallest of things could have an effect on the outcome further down the line. I could keep up though and didn’t feel lost at all during the film which is a comment to how successful this it is.

The performances are amazing  and I mean all of them. With the smallest of characters being played by people like Jackie Earle Harley, James Spader and John Hawkes it’s hard to fault any performance throughout.

Originally, I must say I thought Liam Nesson should have been playing Lincoln, as originally planned but Daniel Day Lewis made me forget all that in a matter of seconds. Once again, he disappears and turns into somebody completely different. His accent, his walk and mannerisms such as the way he holds his arm while deep in thought all add to this outstanding piece of acting.

Tommy Lee Jones is even more amazing though. I can not tell you how good it is to see him in a good film once again. It seems like ages since he’s been in one and his character of Thaddeus Stevens is my favourite and most interesting characters, giving Jones the chance to show just how great an actor he really is. He deserves to take any award he’s nominated for in this.

Sally Field is excellent as Mary Lincoln and the scene where her and her husband have a heated argument is one of the highlights.

Honestly though I could be here typing all night if I were to mention each performance.

Less schmaltzy than War Horse, Spielberg has made here one of the best films he had made in a long time, aside for perhaps Tintin. It doesn’t particularly look or feel like a Spielberg but does all at once, lens flares and all.

This is him at his most talky. No giant alien spaceships or dinosaurs, we hardly even get much of a look in at battles but it works and is one of the many reasons he remains one of my favourite directors, his extraordinary talent to slip from genre to genre effortlessly.

He’s first and foremost a great storyteller and this is a great story and one which, providing you are willing to give it your full attention will not disappoint.


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