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2012 | 149 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1



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User reviews

6 user reviews

Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 09 November, 2012
 25 January, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Lincoln Blu-ray

Lincoln Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 15, 2012

It’s interesting to find the new film from Steven Spielberg titled “Lincoln,” when in fact it’s barely about Abraham Lincoln at all. Attempting to transform the 16th President of the United States into an angel, Spielberg loses touch with reality, making a ponderous museum piece about a deeply complex man, focusing so intently on one page of history, it makes the subject even more enigmatic. Although richly constructed with impeccable cinematic style, “Lincoln” is an airless, directionless lump of a movie that somehow makes dependably committed work from star Daniel Day-Lewis feel like an audition tape for the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” audio-animatronic gig at Disneyland.

As the Civil War rages on throughout America, President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) searches for an ideal solution to stop the bloodshed and heal the nation. His idea of a Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that would outlaw slavery, thus weakening one of the primary motivations for war, is met with great skepticism from Washington types, with men such as Republican leader Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) questioning Lincoln’s motivations and political consideration, while wife Mary (Sally Field) merely wants her husband to work carefully to preserve the future for sons Tad (Gulliver McGrath) and Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Hoping to push the Amendment through quickly, the President is met with resistance, requiring a trio of operatives (Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, and James Spader) to woo enough votes to win, revealing tremendous bitterness and mistrust through a weary land, leaving the blustery political process to test Lincoln’s mettle during a most tumultuous period of national divide.

Spielberg’s visited these parts before. In 1997’s “Amistad,” the director attempted to bring the story of a slave uprising and subsequent trial to the big screen, only to create a swollen ode to the tenacity of the human spirit, turning desperate defiance into a leaden political story with speeches galore and a general Very Important Movie glaze no amount of gorgeous cinematography could dispel. It’s eerie to see how closely “Lincoln” follows the “Amistad” formula, with Spielberg once again muting his natural impulse for high adventure to play carefully with sacred historical figures, almost fearful to challenge the events at hand, preferring to attack the material in the stateliest manner imaginable. Of course, there’s screen magnificence in Janusz Kaminski’s painterly photography, with striking Civil War imagery and a profound appreciation for Lincoln’s steel-cut profile, but it’s a white glove treatment that’s distancing, dropping a crucial sense of the human spirit to play with microscopic particulars of lighting and framing, diminishing the fortitude of the story.

The screenplay by Tony Kushner (who previously worked with Spielberg on 2005’s “Munich”) is also missing a heartbeat. Instead of flavorful debates and consequential conversations, Kushner cooks up speech after speech, passing out grandiloquent monologues to everyone in the frame, with precise attention to period language that carries a certain Shakespearean density. This is a long-winded picture, almost to a point of self-parody, with Lincoln himself an enemy to economical storytelling, serving up achingly protracted tales meant to stupefy his enemies and enchant his followers. However, these eloquent moments lose meaning when repeated every five minutes, with much of “Lincoln” scripted as a play, giving the supporting cast time to shine though extended acts of communication and congressional speechifying.

The verbosity is tiring to watch, growing to lessen Day-Lewis’s committed work as Lincoln. Obviously, he’s a marvelous actor with an old-fashioned sense of dedication to the nuances of the characters he’s played. His Lincoln is no different, with a facial transformation that’s just about perfect, also capturing the man’s gait and speed of aging as he supports a fractured nation. However, there’s not much for Day-Lewis to do besides memorize marathon passages of dialogue and master Lincoln’s patience and cold legal mind. While the concentration is outstanding, there’s no inner light within the President, with one single scene of fatherly instinct to reprimand Robert’s disrespectful attitude shattering the shell of nobility. Lincoln is portrayed as weary and measured, but that’s the extent of the interpretation. For a film titled “Lincoln,” there’s very little personality to dig into, with the saga of the Thirteenth Amendment taking top priority.

History buffs will surely have a ball with “Lincoln,” observing all sorts of blustery historical figures, ornate buildings, and battered Civil War sites. The tech credits are exceptional, creating a seamless sense of the era that’s often more fascinating than the unfolding drama.

Refusing to surrender “Lincoln” once the Amendment issue is resolved, Kushner and Spielberg decide to take the material all the way to the assassination, believing in a resolution that has little to do with the story of government disaccord they’re trying to tell. Suddenly, “Lincoln” is mindful of the span of history, though the effort to bring the movie to a satisfying close bludgeons the audience with overlength, watching Spielberg torch perfectly sound climactic opportunities to stretch the picture to a tragic ending. However, it hardly sours the feature, as “Lincoln” has already spent enough time in stasis to deaden the viewer, laboring through 145 minutes of dramatic inertia to inspect a mere brick in the extensive foundation of Abraham Lincoln achievements.

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, Sally Field
Director: Steven Spielberg

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Lincoln, Forum Discussions

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Spielberg's Lincoln 572 Mar 12, 2013

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