Movie Review: Lincoln

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate even though I’ll try to keep the spoilers to what can be seen in the trailers.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 5/5 stars

“Lincoln” tells the story of one of America’s least known presidents.  “Abraham who?”, you will often hear exclaimed after asking people about him.  This movie seeks to shed some light on the man who served as president in an era that is almost unknown to history.

Of course, everyone knows about Abraham Lincoln.  And everyone knows about the Civil War.  Everybody knows about the Emancipation Proclamation.  And everyone’s heard of the Thirteenth Amendment (hint: it’s the one that abolished slavery).  And everyone also knows that Stephen Spielburg is an Acadamy Awards whore.  You now know everything you need to know about the movie.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Abraham Lincoln.  Never before has a man played a historical character in such a way that leaves an indelible imprint on my psyche. Daniel Day-Lewis does so.  It will be very hard to read any of Lincoln’s words without hearing Daniel Day-Lewis’ voice in my head from now on.  I have no idea how he does it.  Time and time again, Daniel Day-Lewis leaves an impression.  Even in dull movies like “There Will be Blood” (which I monikered, “There Will be Boring”), Day-Lewis shines through.

The always awesome Sally Field plays Mary Todd Lincoln.  She really gets that blend of a smart, savvy, Mary Todd along with the crazy Mary Todd down well.  Oh, and a very heartfelt eff you go out to Stephen Spielberg for ever considering dropping her from the role.  The way Hollywood and the world in general treats women differently than men is criminal.

The story picks up soon after Abraham Lincoln won his second term.  The Civil War is still raging, but quickly coming to an end.  The Thirteenth Amendment has already passed the Senate, but is still short of the two-thirds votes needed to pass the House where the vile Democrats are rabidly against passage.  What follows are various attempts to beg, buy, or steal votes from lame-duck Democrats while at the same time holding the Republican coalition together.

The movie works really well.  It flows smoothly and, while at times a bit hard to follow, keeps the interest up.  The only weak part was the final act.  When the vote finally occurs, there is all this fake tension that doesn’t have a ring of believability.  After the vote, the movie kind of drifts to its inevitable conclusion with Lincoln’s assassination.  These are minor complaints in an otherwise excellent movie.

As an aside from the movie itself, it is somewhat heartening to see that politics has always been a dirty game.  Even something as obvious as ending slavery had to be bought.  There has always been a political party that stubbornly decides to stand against the inevitability of history.  Everything that’s going on with the world today, this too shall pass.