lincoln | my movie review

Posted on March 7, 2013

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Lincoln

Whether it’s Bruno Ganz’s Hitler, Frank Langella’s Nixon, or Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick – I love a good political movie!
I’ll be the first to admit that I was never going to read a weighty book about America’s 16th president, so I thank you, Mr Spielberg, for making such a genuine, powerful, and I might also say historical movie of said POTUS. I also have to state that, in case you’re put off by biopics, this is not one. This movie is primarily about Lincoln’s battle to pass the thirteenth amendment that would formally abolish slavery in the United States, it also takes in his fight to end the civil war, and also his role as a family man. All this takes place during the four months prior to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. It’s a glimpse into history, and you can rest assured that people will still be referring to this movie long after you and I have shed this mortal coil!
Spielberg took 10 years researching and developing this movie – and it shows in every single frame. The minutiae involved is incredible and makes the whole thing so believable. From Day Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln down to the visible dust floating in the air of the dark offices where these discussions and arguments take place. The natural light used in those scenes is beautiful… truly beautiful. The cinematography is stunning.
John Williams’ musical score is brilliantly unobtrusive, never getting in the way of what we are witness to on the screen, never jarring nor manipulative.
Let me just return to Daniel Day Lewis for a moment. Apparently, he initially didn’t feel he could play the part but Spielberg said he wouldn’t make it without him, and his screen buddy from Gangs of New York, Leonardo DiCaprio, persuaded him to take it on. Quite frankly, there is no-one on this planet – and Spielberg himself has said this – who could play Lincoln the way that Daniel can play him. He is astounding. His stature and posture, his calm firmness, his strength and prowess in politics, he even talks how you would expect him to talk. His Lincoln is a truly remarkable piece of work. For me though, the more moving scenes were the ones that gave us a glimpse into the family man, the father and husband. His love for his children was immense, and how he groaned for them and their pain will resonate with any father watching this movie. The image of him sitting in the halflight reading to his son is a beautiful, quiet scene.
Lincoln is also a movie of contradictions. It is slow yet dramatic, subtle yet powerful, quiet yet vocal, dark yet full of light. Also dotted throughout the movie is something that is severely lacking in many movies of late… humour! Lincoln was a fan of anecdotes and stories and we get to see how his staff react to them with some amusing moments. He did venture dangerously close to Daniel Plainview from time to time during his longer speeches [of which there are many], but thankfully there was no sign of Bill the Butcher!
Let’s not forget that Day Lewis isn’t the only person in this movie, and that it wouldn’t be such an incredible piece of work if everyone else involved wasn’t up to scratch. Sally Field is full of [maybe a little too much] emotion and bite as Mrs Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a fierce opponent of slavery, is a simmering presence who occasionally verbally boils over with great results. David Strathairn as William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert, Lincoln’s oldest son. However, possibly the most fun character is the completely unrecognisable James Spader as W.N. Bilbo, hiding under an impressive moustache. Bilbo was one of Lincoln’s “hired men” used to procure votes from the Democrats. Spader brought a smile to my face whenever he was onscreen.
I have only one qualm, and that is with the ending.
*spoiler alert*
This movie ended wrong!
A bold statement from someone who may never make a single movie himself, you might think, but hear me out…
After Lincoln says “I’d really like to stay, but it’s time to go.” he then slowly walks away from the camera, down the hall in his cape and hat, heading to the theatre, where we know he meets his end – *that’s* where the movie should have ended. It would have been a far more contemplative, solemn ending to a movie of this kind.
The extra scenes of people shouting about him being shot, him lying in his deathbed with the final announcement of his passing were completely surplus to requirement and meant the movie ended on a completely different – and not altogether fitting – note.
*spoiler end*
Saying that, Spielberg has given us another great piece of movie history and I can’t think of anyone who I wouldn’t recommend this to.
Spielberg has given us some of cinema’s greatest movies and some of the most memorable scenes that are ingrained in our psyche: the solitary swimmer and music from Jaws, the snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the silhouetted bike against the moon from E.T., the velociraptors in the kitchen in Jurassic Park, the whole of Schindler’s List, the “sicksticks” from Minority Report and the beach landings of Saving Private Ryan, the list in endless! Considering all these memories that he has given us, he has won precious little Oscars! He won 2 for Schindler’s List [Best Picture & Director] and 1 for Saving Private Ryan [Best Director]. But even more criminal is that no actor in a Spielberg movie has ever won an Oscar…
Until this year…
You have to see it…
You simply have to.

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