Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lincoln




Abraham Lincoln is a figure in America that may seem like a fictional creation to some. His story has become the stuff of legend, and given the distance between his time and ours, it may be hard to separate the truth from the rumors without consulting a history textbook. Thankfully (for history buffs), this film was written by an academic-caliber writer, one who even won a pulitzer prize several decades ago. Combine that with the talents of acclaimed director Steven Spielberg, and it's no wonder this film received all the accolades it did. But despite the pedigree of the screenwriter and filmmaker (or perhaps because of it), Lincoln may be a trial of patience for those lacking tolerance toward period dramas with a penchant for flowery dialogue. I start my review this way not to dissuade people from seeing it, but rather to offer a buffer to the extreme and nearly universal praise this film has been given.

Lincoln tells the story of the titular American President and his efforts to sign the 13th Amendment to the constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. Lincoln's goals are twofold as he is disgusted by slavery as a whole, but also sees the amendment as the perfect device to end the Civil War. However, many in the House of Representatives see the amendment as treason, going so far as to call President Lincoln a dictator for proposing such an amendment. They feel that peace should be established using other means, and are convinced that Lincoln is purposely refusing to negotiate with the Confederate leaders in order to give his amendment priority. In an attempt to get the necessary votes for the amendment to pass, Lincoln focuses his attention on the "lame duck" democratic representatives who have lost their re-election campaigns and have nothing to lose by changing sides. After a last-minute call for the vote to be postponed, the 13th Amendment is officially passed and Lincoln rides to Virginia to accept General Lee's surrender.

The plot summary did contain spoilers, so hopefully everyone has taken a 5th grade history class before reading this review. Clearly, based on my star rating, I deeply enjoyed this film. It's a terrific depiction of one of the most important events in our country's history. I'm sure this will come as no surprise to anyone either, but Daniel Day-Lewis does an unbelievable job portraying Abraham Lincoln. Not only does he look uncannily like every picture I've ever seen of the famous American President, but his every utterance is truly remarkable. Each story he tells, each speech he delivers makes you think you are watching some kind of time capsule of the actual Lincoln in the flesh. There's no doubt that his Oscar was well-deserved.

While Day-Lewis obviously lived up to the hype, some other aspects of this film were sadly underwhelming. John Williams, probably the best film composer to ever live, turned in a completely forgettable score. In fact, I feel the best moments of this movie were those where no music accompanied them. Parts of the music were derivative of the far superior "War Horse" soundtrack, while others were almost distracting to the brilliance of Daniel Day-Lewis. As mentioned above, I also felt the screenplay was somewhat overdone (if one can say that). I didn't live in the 1800s, but I'm sure that every person didn't speak as eloquently as they're portrayed in this film.

Overall, this is still a tremendous film. Spielberg does a great job of balancing the many characters and paying tribute to the legendary US President who changed the lives of millions and "unborn millions to come."  It isn't a perfect film, but it's still an impressive achievement. This movie should be seen, though you may have to be in the right mood to do so (just ask Lara). I give Lincoln a strong three and a half stars.

LINCOLN is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language