Review - Lincoln

Lincoln (2012), PG-13, 150 minutes - When it comes to movies, I've always enjoyed period pieces.  Give me a film that provides a glimpse into another time and I'm happy.  I've also always enjoyed a well made biopic.  Luckily for me, these two genres often times go hand in hand.  In this case, Steven Spielberg covers both genres with an excellent film that focuses on the final four months of our 16th President's life, including his push to get the 13th Amendment to our Constitution passed in order to abolish slavery.

Most biopics tend to cover an entire lifespan, but Spielberg decided to narrow his focus on a fraction of Abraham Lincoln's life that had the most lasting effects on our country (Tony Kushner's screenplay draws heavily from Doris Kearns Goodwin's novel 'Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln').  He takes a look behind the scenes and shows us Lincoln's mindset after having made the Emancipation Proclamation and being re-elected.  We see the man and his values.  The focus he had on leading our country, and the effects it had on he and his family (particularly his wife and oldest son).  We are shown why getting the 13th Amendment passed was so important to Lincoln (his Emancipation Proclamation really just took advantage of a war-time legal loophole) along with the sometimes shady political maneuverings that were necessary to get the job done (even back in 1865).  We see a man who is intelligent, generally soft spoken, and methodical in his ways, but who commands attention and respect, and who also realizes the power that he has been given by the people by being re-elected in the middle of the Civil War.

Daniel Day-Lewis IS Abraham Lincoln in this film.  So much so that you almost forget that the man you are watching on screen isn't actually our former President.  Day-Lewis has become an actor that you can just about always pencil in for an Oscar nomination.  His method approach to acting allows him to fully immerse himself in the characters that he takes on, and his portrayal of Lincoln is uncanny.  On the other hand, we have Tommy Lee Jones, who gives what is most likely an Oscar nomination-worthy performance in his own right as Thaddeus Stevens, but there's no mistaking Jones for anyone other than himself up on the screen.  That's not meant as a slight to Jones' performance in any way, but just to reiterate how strong Day-Lewis' turn as Lincoln is.  These two performances are easily the best put forth by an extremely strong cast that is comprised by Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Lincoln), David Strathairn (William Seward), Hal Holbrook (Preston Blair), John Hawkes (Robert Latham), Jackie Earle Haley (Alexander Stephens), Bruce McGill (Edwin Stanton), and Jared Harris (Ulysses S. Grant) among others.

Lincoln clocks in at two and a half hours, and while it isn't the fastest paced film, it is certainly never boring.  Simply calling it a visual history lesson wouldn't do it justice, there's too much character work interwoven with the narrative.  This is simply entertainment that, more than likely, informs most of us in more detail than we remember from our studies.  School has shown us all the outcome (the 13th Amendment passed, abolishing slavery, the Civil War ended, and shortly thereafter President Lincoln was assassinated) yet the suspense in the film is palpable.  It's amazing to me what Spielberg was able to do in portraying that four month time span.  Considering all that Lincoln meant to our country and how much we all learn about him growing up in school, it would be intriguing to see a life spanning biopic.

Lincoln is well worth the price of admission and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  It really is just an excellently made film across the board.  Right now, it is right up alongside Argo as the best picture of the year in my opinion.  I'll be interested to see just how many Oscar nominations it receives.

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