Movie review: Lincoln

By Jane Morice

Any movie directed and produced by the legendary Steven Spielberg is going to carry high expectations on its shoulders.

“Lincoln,” Spielberg’s latest creation, is an epic movie chronicling President Abraham Lincoln’s time in the White House in January 1865, just months before the end of the Civil War. The focus of the film revolves around the vote on the 13th Amendment, the abolishment of slavery, in the House of Representatives and Lincoln deciding whether or not to negotiate with Confederate delegates to end the war immediately. The question about which to do may seem obvious in hindsight, but its complexity becomes apparent while watching, leaving even the viewer conflicted.

The complexity of the situation becomes apparent to the viewer while watching how Lincoln handles himself and his decisions. Lincoln is played by renowned actor Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”). Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln is superb: brutally honest and humorous, yet soft-spoken and good-natured. Having a British actor playing one of America’s most iconic and well-known people, let alone presidents, is a risky idea. But Day-Lewis lives up to Lincoln’s legacy.

The remainder of the star-studded cast lived up to their roles as well. Sally Field (“The Amazing Spider-Man”), who has acted in an array of award-winning films and television programs, plays Mary Todd Lincoln (Lincoln calls her Molly in the film). Field does a terrific job conveying the paranoid and deeply depressed feelings the former First Lady deals with daily after the death of her son Willy. Her depression adds to the realistic feel of the movie, particularly in scenes that show the interactions between Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.

Another major character is House Representative Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones (the “Men in Black” series). Stevens, historically one of the most powerful Republicans during Lincoln’s time, is portrayed as a cynically funny and righteous leader, and the scenes depicting the relationship between Lincoln and Stevens are some of the most pivotal and well-remembered.  Unfortunately, the appearance of heartthrob Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Looper”), playing Lincoln’s son Robert in the film, is short. With his name so high on the bill, one would expect him to be in the movie a bit more often.

One of the more surprising elements of “Lincoln” is its humor. It is easy to forget how funny Lincoln was when his inspirational and thought-provoking speeches are the ones remembered in history (not that this is a bad thing in the least).

Also, Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn, of the“Bourne” series) has some of the funniest lines of the movie, as do the men Seward hires to sway Democrats in the House into voting for the 13th Amendment. While the subject matter of the film is not funny in the least, Spielberg’s choice to lighten up the film was a good one because it keeps the viewer attentive throughout.

The film’s runtime, at two and a half hours, is a bit lengthy even for the most avid Lincoln fan. The lighting and the camerawork of the film were also questionable at times. Some of the scenes had buildings that looked too modern, and there were even instances where the weather changes drastically without an explanation.

The language used throughout the film was tremendously verbose, and the subject matter shared between delegates of the House of Representatives is not exactly common knowledge. These combined factors could potentially confuse the audience.

In the end, “Lincoln” is a film worth seeing for its historical significance and its honest look into the world of one of America’s most beloved presidents.

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