Movie Review: A few months into President Lincoln’s second term, he still faces the grave consequences of war. While the war between the states rages, Lincoln also has another motive, the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment would abolish slavery in the United States. The passage of the measure would not be easy, as Congress must first pass it before ratification by the states. Lincoln must keep the Republicans united while trying to persuade enough Democratic Party members to vote for the amendment.
Slavery was not a primary or secondary cause for civil war, but this photoplay shows how those wanting to abolish slavery used the war to promote their just cause. This film shows what a shrewd politician President Lincoln was.
People may know him as “Honest Abe,” but he was a cunning political negotiator who used the bully pulpit to get what he wanted. In a pivotal scene, Lincoln shouts, “I am the President of the United States, clothed in immense power!”
Director Spielberg keeps the focus sharp with Lincoln. Spielberg exhibits few characters, but the focus is Lincoln, and secondarily his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.
Daniel Day-Lewis ably plays Lincoln as a bold leader, a skilled statesman and storyteller who appreciated jokes. Day-Lewis makes it all look too easy. He plays Lincoln in a manner captivatingly enough that historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” served in part as a template for this film, noted history appeared before her. Day-Lewis will be an easy Oscar nomination selection this year.
Sally Field should also receive many accolades for her brilliant turn as Lincoln’s wife. Mrs. Lincoln is still lamenting the death of one of her sons. Field’s scenes with Day-Lewis are some of the film’s most dramatic, influential scenes. Jones, Strathairn and Holbrook also turn in good performances. Jones is especially potent as the wig-wearing Thaddeus Stevens.
Spielberg uses his characters nicely, but this cast often appears as if part of history class rather than a grand screenplay. Any story of Lincoln is grand. However, Spielberg allows the characters to become a story more about the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment rather than Lincoln. This is this film’s great flaw when the previews and trailers made the film appear grander.
In addition, the fine soundtrack played during the end credits should have played some during the film. Some of the scenes could have benefited from moving music. Also, it was not necessary to have multiple senators respond to a role call vote that lasts for several moments. For a moment, “Lincoln” appears to be C-SPAN.
Still, “Lincoln” is an impressive achievement. Day-Lewis and Field are superb, and the story remains riveting as if it happened yesterday.
Grade: B+ (Lewis makes a superb Lincoln.)
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Drama: 1 hour, 42 minutes)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Rated: PG-13 (Strong language, violence, sexuality and drug and alcohol usage)