Lincoln

6.5 Overall Score
Visuals: 8/10
Plot: 4/10
Casting: 9/10

Daniel Day-Lewis gives the performance of a lifetime as Mr. Lincoln

The plot's focus is too narrow, and the overall direction isn't a fully enveloping one

Abraham Lincoln is and will always be my favorite president. Though I don’t really know what the man was truly like, and I’m sure a lot about his persona evaporated in the 150 years since he took office, something about him really intrigues me. Maybe it was the legacy he left. Maybe it’s the chilling human personality that he takes on, bent and tormented by other people and events. The dense, dynamic, and scholarly grace that encompasses Lincoln and those around him goes unnoted in the history books; a fine form that could only be recreated through careful and retrospective analysis and emotions. With Steven Spielberg’s documentary film on the last four months of Lincoln’s life, his so-called “finest hours,” we get to see an honest retrospection and these special moments captured in time. However, I just wish those moments were represented with as much enticement and astonishment as I have towards my favorite American leader.

Playing the role of Mr. Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, Nine) gives an incredible, moving performance. Lewis is Lincoln, short and sweet. Just like his portrayal of oil manager Daniel Plainview in 2007’s There Will Be Blood, Lewis tends to be fully engulfed into his character. Whenever he entrenches himself into the riches of American history, this history seems to come alive. But the big question with Lincoln is: does this film truly come to life? While Lewis proves to be deserving of an Oscar as Lincoln, the movie as an entirety comes up short in its attempt to clothe Lincoln’s presidency with the true disparity of the Civil War, and the war’s imminent closure. Rather, while the cinematography and visuals are pungent and endowing, the plot and direction of the film is shaky and rather unfulfilling.

I don’t know if I was hoping for more of a focus on Civil War events or maybe even The Gettysburg Address itself, but the film’s focus – which leans more towards Lincoln’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery – just seems a little flat in its ways of scrutinization. Heavy, intricate sections of dialogue control the movie, giving a hit-or-miss opportunity for the cast to shine. While Lewis shines in almost every moment he’s on the screen (especially with his somewhat-silly, moral-filled narratives), many scenes featuring Mrs. Lincoln (Sally Field) and William Seward (David Strathairn) can be a drag. On the other hand, playing one of Lincoln’s sons, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, Looper) continues to add to a spectacular 2012 resume. Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) exemplifies the nature of Lincoln‘s plot, and that’s the story of how America outlawed slavery.

While Jones is full of enormous bursts of humor and fascination towards the issue of slavery (being against it, of course), he reminded me of how boring 19th century politics can often be. And that’s the problem with Lincoln. It’s far too political and documentative, and lacks in intensity and epicness. In its most realistic manner, Lincoln is pretty much a straight-shot, no-bull biopic. Though it may be historically accurate and very little Hollywoodized (which, in all goodness, is a great thing), it lacks drive. The character development, the clever acuteness, and sharp emotional tug-and-pull is present, but the film never seems to really get off its feet. It instead draws itself out into a 150 minute-long recreation of the passing of the amendment. Instead of an extravagant end scene of Lincoln heading to Ford Theater where he is assassinated, Spielberg opts for a restrained and less pictorial ending. He did a great job of restricting melodrama, and it results in a careful – perhaps maybe too careful – historical film that lacks suspense and chills. These four months may be an important segment from America’s history, but Lincoln fails to represent them as entirely captivating.

Don’t turn on Lincoln because of it’s sharply-focused direction and near-stale pureness, as you may miss out on a very entrenching atmosphere. Scenes with Mr. Lincoln riding horseback through hazy battlefields and interacting with his family really make Lincoln a rich and authentic journey. It’s quite evident how tormented and deeply affected the president was by the state of the country; the wrinkles on his face and twinkle in his eye bring out the distress and thoughtfulness that dominated this man. The cinematography, sets, costumes, and artistic venture of the film paint it thick and vivid. More bombardment and dramatization would’ve been nice, but Lincoln still delivers in most other areas.

Lincoln is a prime achievement for Spielberg, and it’s easily one of his most crowning efforts in years. While it may be a thriller for history buffs, I came out a little less pleased than I had hoped. That’s not all bad, though, because even with a few places where the film could’ve turned differently or upped-the-ante a little bit, it was still a charming – and very much enjoyable – documentary on the  life of America’s 16th president. Now it’s time for Lewis to pick up his Oscar. He is the shining star of this film, and he assures audiences that they’ll never forget the history that was made while Lincoln was in office, and the immense, valuable character that he embodied.

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Author: Tim Dodderidge View all posts by
I'm a student at the University of Kansas hoping to major in journalism. I love Christopher Nolan films, eating at Taco Bell, and playing indoor soccer. I also like to watch How I Met Your Mother and enjoy writing poetry.

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