Thoughts on… Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln, 2012

Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill and Tim Blake Nelson.

Lincoln movie poster


Abraham Lincoln attempts to pass the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution whilst managing the Civil War.

Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln

So much of Lincoln is filled with characters sat around discussing the issues at hand. As a result, Lincoln is not a fast paced film; it trails quietly and slowly along a path, a path which shows the despicable nature of humanity as it was 150 years ago. Despite its extremely slow pace Lincoln rarely drags and has your attention for the duration. This is in large part to the incredible performances from, naturally, Daniel Day-Lewis, but also from Tommy Lee Jones. With the former as Lincoln himself, Day-Lewis brings a quiet passionate to the role, as the desire to free slaves burns deep within him. However even when Lincoln’s passion boils over, DDL never plays it with anger, simply a subdued despair at his fellow man’s lack of empathy. Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal in the role, and rumours are he stayed in character on-set, which has more than paid off. No doubt DDL will win this year’s Best Actor Oscar, and no one can say it is undeserved. Tommy Lee Jones gives a performance unseen from him for many a year, as he plays Thaddeus Stevens, a member of the House of Representatives fighting in favour of the Amendment.

As an ensemble Lincoln has a solid foundation of actors; Joseph Gordon-Levitt has barely much to do as Robert, the eldest son of Lincoln, however when called upon for an important scene Gordon-Levitt brings a powerful gravitas to the role that is required. Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tim Blake Nelson and John Hawkes all bring enough to their – admittedly smaller – roles, adding a great sense of emotional weight to the film, and everyone is great all round.

Spielberg never really sells how very high the stakes so clearly were, and it’s thankfully down to the great work from its actors to do that. We are given a glimpse at the start of the war, how brutal it was, but then it is never seen again. The film really is focused on the man that Lincoln was, and what happened in those weeks before the Amendment vote, rather than taking a look at the era and the world which surrounded the man.

Lincoln is a gorgeous film to behold at times. Some of the cinematography and the way scenes are lit, with candlelight only, are strikingly beautiful and cast Lincoln in a warm glow. Which is exactly what this film is, a warm look back at a great man. Saying that, I was disappointed with the ending. I felt the ending could have come at an earlier point, as it really adds nothing to the narrative other than to solemn the mood. That said Lincoln is a wonderful film that requires your full attention at its dense dialogue and scenes of contemplation between characters require it, but it’s one that has rich rewards for those who do.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ 

Martin Deer

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