LINCOLN might be better titled The Politics of Ending Slavery. Because it is just as much about how the 13th Amendment was passed by a severely divided House of Representatives, as it is about the President who pushed so hard to make it happen. We get a look at Lincoln the politician, the back room dealmaker and the persuader. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the great man as weary from four years of war, and a shrew of a wife who will not let him forget the death of their son Willie. All of this has Lincoln hunched over from the weight of history or his own demons. Day-Lewis’ Lincoln is given to spinning tales to make his point. He mostly practices the gentle art of persuasion, but occasionally allows fits of temper. Overall, Lincoln comes across as human, but slightly better than everyone around him. Despite being about 2:30 long and mostly dialogue, the movie moves fairly well and almost never feels preachy or ponderous (two things Steven Spielberg movies can sometimes be). Spielberg and his longtime cinematographer Jarusz Kaminski chose to show these United States as gray and dreary and I suppose that fits the mood. While all the technical aspects and very good and the screenplay by Thomas Kushner (from Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s book) is very good, the real treat here is the acting. The audience feels as burdened by his troubles as Day-Lewis’ Lincoln. He struggles with sorrow, regret and ego as he attempts to seize a moment in history that only he seems to grasp. The supporting performances are outstanding. Tommy Lee Jones as a Pennsylvania Congressman hell-bent on abolition, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward, a bloated James Spader as a political dealmaker, and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln steal almost every scene they are in. And I was pleased to see such great TV actors as Walton Goggins and Michael Stuhlbarg play small but wonderful roles. As a student and lover of history I thoroughly enjoyed LINCOLN. And as a film critic, I was entertained and captivated, but not moved as passionately as I could have been. LINCOLN is flawed, but ultimately worth seeing. — Alan Yudman

One thought on “LINCOLN

  1. Nice review Alan. It can be a bit of a snooze-fest at times, but it still kept me intrigued and interested in where it was going with itself. Problem is, we all know how it ends.


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