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Steven Spielberg's political biopic of the 16th President of the USA, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. Focusing on the final four months of his life, Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis, winner of the Golden Globe for this performance) clashes with members of his cabinet on the road to abolishing slavery and ending the American Civil War.
Unsatisfied that his Emancipation Proclamation will be enough to safeguard the freedom of slaves after the conclusion of fighting, Lincoln seeks to push a 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through the House of Representatives that would formally bring slavery to an end. To do so, Lincoln will need to convince members of his own Republican party and win over enough Democrats to pass the vote. The task will require the politician's famed debating and speechmaking skills, but also a dabble in unsavoury methods in the shadows of democracy.
Kushner's screenplay is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The cast also includes Sally Field as Lincoln's wife, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his son, Tommy Lee Jones as a Congressional leader and Jackie Earle Haley as the secessionists' Vice-President.
Best Actor in a Leading Role for Day-Lewis and Best Production Design at the 2013 Academy Awards. Best Actor (Drama) for Day-Lewis, Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards 2013.
- Tony Kushner (based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin)
Biography, Drama, True Story & Biography
Rating: M contains violence and offensive language
Steven Spielberg has always been a sentimentalist, but it's been easy to forgive because of his mastery of the cinematic form and the medium's suitability to big broad emotions.
Occasionally though (Always; The Terminal), his sentimental side overcomes his filmmaking instincts, and we end up with a film like Lincoln.
A shamelessly hagiographic chronicling of the final months of the Great Emancipator's life, the film deifies Lincoln to greater heights than ever before while struggling to constuct anything resembling a captivating narrative around his various speeches and pronouncements.
Abraham Lincoln's achievements were historic, and he is undoubtedly worthy of such respect, but this isn't his retirement party, it's a movie. And movies have an obligation to engage the viewer in something more than hushed reverence.
The plot that drives this film concerns a parliamentary vote for which history has long since determined the outcome. Outside of this in-no-way-gripping-whatsoever storyline we get familial conflict involving Lincoln's wife (Sally Field) and eldest son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
And of course Daniel Day-Lewis' title performance, which prevents this film from receiving a one star rating. He's impressive to be sure, and that might be enough to get some members of the audience through the film. But Spielberg appears to think his mere presence is inherently dramatic, and hangs way too much of the film on his pontificating.
It's clear that some of the power of this movie is lost when viewed outside of an American context. I love all things American, but in this instance, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)
Little White Lies (UK)
Los Angeles Times
Total Film (UK)
New York Times
Oscars for this??
Good movie but not wonderful. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter was better, lol..
I'm not rating this for accuracy but for my movie going experience. I love Daniel Day Lewis' - he never disappoints. The movie told of Lincoln's determination, strength of character and gave a good understanding of how was so loved and hated. I thought that the cinematography was great!
Not well liked, but
I found this a well actyed and engrossing experience. Can't be sure about the accuracy, but trust not too far, at least in principle.
If only I wasn't a historical dunce...
I hated history in school. I was terrible at it, the topics bored me and the movies they played to accompany the education were about as exciting as a trigonometry test. 'Lincoln' made me fortunate that I didn't grow up in America as a 2013 high school student, because I didn't need more reasons to fall asleep in class. Amongst the glut of edutainment and sentimentalism, I had a massive appreciation for the performances on display and it has one of the year's richest production designs. However, a history book won't win me over just because it's bound in leather.
In the end, all art reaction is subjective.
I am sorry that you were, apparently, disappointed with this effort. Personally, I found it a very worthwhile experience. Perhaps you would find greater satisfaction with Raymond Massey's 1940 portrayal in 'Abe Lincoln in Illiniois'. It is now available on an NTSC R0 disc, although not from NZ sources. Then again, it too is quite expository and may also be less than you desire.
Interesting political procedural
This was longer and more talky than I expected. The most interesting part was the political games and manoeuvring - some of the Lincoln family drama seemed beside the point. Day Lewis is everything you'd hope for and easily the best reason to see this.
Just like reading a book, dates and everything leading up to events. Similar to 'The Help' in the way it portrayed the plight and situations of black workers/slaves. No vampire hunting or blood splatteringly graphic, but still worth watching, amazing scenes, acting and costumes. So much like 'Pride and Prejudice' showing the reprocussions of difficult decisions. Shame it's just not my cuppa tea.
Genre : historical, drama, war
3/5 : maybe cos its just not my sort of film, but very good rendition of Honest Abe's hard choices.
This is not a film to see when one is tired or drunk. It doesn't go in for a large amount of exposition, nor does it talk down to the audience. This is a film which requires you to pay attention in order to follow the details - especially if you are not overly au fait with the American Civil War or the American governmental structure.
I wouldn't say I'm a big Daniel Day Lewis fan, but I appreciate the effort he goes to when working on a part even I do think it is a bit OTT. And given the award nominations so far I was expecting a top level performance from him. What surprised me though was the ensemble nature of this film. While Lincoln is the title role, this is quite a large cast with a number of substantial roles. Sally Field, in the role of Lincoln's somewhat unstable wife (and the only significant female part) was entrancing. My favourite was Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens - what that man can convey with a simple lift of the eyebrow or twitch of the mouth is impressive.
Overall, I really enjoy the film both visually and for its storyline. It doesn't cover as much of Lincoln's life as I would have liked but a film that covered all of his life would not have done it justice. At 2.5 hrs it might have run a little long, but I found I didn't really mind.
My husband didn't want to go because he thought it wouldn't be his type of film. But the thought of buttery salty popcorn to watch it with, made him change his mind.
Unfortunately the popcorn was the highlight of going to watch this movie. I do see how American's might rave about Daniel's performance - however the overall experience was long & dull.
About half way through the movie I started to focus on the stranger in the seat on my right, becoming more aware of her coughing and loud breathing - thus proving my point, that the film was lacking anything exciting and couldn't hold my interest.
When Steven Spielberg teamed up with playwright Tony ('Angels in America') Kushner as his writer on 'Munich,' the result was an historically based movie with something to say morally that was never less than riveting entertainment. So, the promise of the two reteaming to bring us the tale of Abraham Lincoln was one I was looking forward to.
And why not? Biopics can make great cinema. Powerful, moving and true. Think of Richard Attenborough's 'Gandhi' (1982) or David Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962) - both biopics, both based on truth, both huge in scope and scale and both hugely entertaining cinema...
So I went into 'Lincoln' with high hopes, discarding bitter memories of the saccharine maudlin sentimentality of Spielberg's most recent barf-inducing family-friendly 'War Horse.' But what I got wasn't worthy of the title 'Lincoln' - instead it's 'The West Wing' does the passing of the 13th Amendment - only without Aaron Sorkin's brilliant, witty and dynamic writing that made the 'West Wing' such great TV drama. What Kushner delivers is a script in which nobody talks. Everybody speechifies. Endlessly.
Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is as beautiful as we've come to expect of the man who shot the likes of 'A.I.' and 'Saving Private Ryan' for the Berg, but 'Lincoln' is so invested with its own sense of importance and magnitude that it singularly fails to do what the likes of 'Gandhi,' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' do so well - that is - to entertain. Spielberg can entertain and moralize and teach history all at the same time as he proved with 'Munich,' 'Empire of the Sun' and 'Schindler's List' - but the pompous grandstanding of 'Lincoln' undermines anything remotely akin to entertaining or captivating drama.
Instead, 'Lincoln' comes off as a cold hard history lesson. Attempts at creating levity and light relief, in the character portrayed with gusto by James Spader, are so obvious and cack-handed that they fall flat against the rest of the movie's lofty and oh-so serious tone. Compared to the dull drag of the first two thirds, the final third of the film is far more energized and dramatic and scenes centering on Tommy Lee Jones' character are, by comparison, so well done that I found myself wishing this were his movie instead of Daniel Day Lewis'.
Judging by the high praise and OSCAR-buzz surrounding 'Lincoln' I can only guess that nobody dare cross Spielberg or mess with a movie that celebrates the end of slavery for fear of appearing racist. But for me, Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' is a far more effective denouncement of slavery as an institution. Lincoln was a great man, but as a movie, 'Lincoln' suffers from an overblown sense of self-importance that achieves the remarkable feat of making both Lincoln and Daniel Day Lewis boring.
There are things to rave about here - the costumes, the cinematography, John Williams' score, the majority of the superb cast assembled (Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field are especially great), the wigs, the hats, the etc etc yawn yawn yawn - but these are all secondary to character, dialogue, and drama which are all crushed under the weight of Kushner's obese screenplay. It's based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography 'Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln' - which I can only imagine must be pretty heavy going if this weighty tome of a tale is anything to go by.
I kept imagining how great this movie could have been had Spielberg just got 'The West Wing' writer Aaron Sorkin in to write it - he wrote 'A Few Good Men,' 'Moneyball' and 'The Social Network' after all. Anyway, if the machinations of Lincoln's American Civil War politics are your thing and the minutia of White House politics that led eventually to emancipation turn you on - 'Lincoln' is for you.