Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by Allan Brown4
Movie Review: Lincoln (2013)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner (screenplay)
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Plot: The Civil War rages on as America’s president battles with the House of Representatives for the passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.
Director Steven Spielberg is the most iconic and successful filmmaker in history who boasts a diverse genre hopping back catalogue of movies that most directors could only dream of. In 1975 he sent shockwaves around the globe with his cinematic masterpiece Jaws which became a global phenomenon overnight as well as the highest grossing film of all time (at the time), and thus the Blockbuster was born.
Spielberg has always had a knack of knowing what brings an audience to the cinema, he remains one of the very few directors who manages to hit commercial success without it infringing on artistic integrity. As a result of his bank-ability the studios allow him unfeigned free reign to create his movies, something that is altogether unheard of in Hollywood. He has been scrutinised over the years for lacking edge, beautifying and softening subjects ultimately watering them down in films that demanded a harder and edgier feel, (Schindler’s List, A.I) However, Love him or hate him there is no doubt that one or more of his movies will have struck a chord with you at some point of your life.
This time Spielberg has chosen to scale down his usual blockbuster sensibilities to craft an intimate portrait of the iconic and inspirational political figure in Abraham Lincoln.
The film centres around the final months of the American Civil War, a time when President Abraham Lincoln battled with the house of representatives to end slavery and bring the Confederate States of America back into the fold of the Union.
The story is simple but Spielberg doesn’t shy away from laying down lengthy passages of political discussion in order to show the importance of Lincoln’s task. It is dense material and although background reading is not required, conversation does move at lightning speed often leaving you running to catch up with all the names, beards and political jargon that are on screen. However, Spielberg has crafted the story in a way that allows for these junctures to be easily digested, not through remembering every last detail but through the scripts warm, charming and joyous dialogue that is anchored by the chameleon presence of ‘Daniel Day-Lewis’, who embodies the role as Abraham Lincoln.
There are so many characters with beards in Lincoln that Spielberg even displays name cards underneath their opening scenes just so we’re not lost. The fact-heavy approach takes getting used to, but Spielberg digs deep beyond the politics to find a human side to Lincoln which coupled with the exceptional performance from Daniel Day-Lewis elevates the movie from good to great.
Day-Lewis absolutely embodies not only the physicality of Lincoln, (gangly with an awkward gait and stride) but the true essence of the man, quiet, warm and gentle, a soft-spoken storyteller with a sense of humour. He shows absolute restraint in these quieter moments making his sudden outbursts towards pussyfooting politicians really striking.
The supporting cast all do a fine job including ‘Sally Field’ and David ‘Strathairn’ but none more so than Tommy Lee Jones who gives an energetic and often scene stealing performance as Thaddeus Stevens the withering, arrogant dreamer who plays the politics game very well and has to be forced to see an issue even opened up for debate.
The journey does hit a few stumbling blocks along the way with regards to its sub-plots. The drama involving Lincoln’s son Robert (‘Joseph Gordon-Levitt’) teases an interesting family dynamic that is never fully explored, and is clunky when dropped to the wayside in favour of larger issues.
Summary: Spielberg has managed to create a beautifully shot and authentic portray of ‘Abraham Lincoln’s’ struggles during a time that has ultimately shaped America as it is today. Although somewhat slower and often fact heavy the film is truly anchored by its screenplay, extraordinary direction and of course its cast. I predict Oscars all round but if Daniel Day Lewis doesn’t win for Best Actor…then ’There will be blood’, indeed.