My first thought while watching Lincoln was, “Wow, someone sure likes that fog machine.” The second? “Man, Daniel Day Lewis is incredible!” I enjoyed Lincoln a lot more than I thought I would thanks to the strong cast.


Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Jared Harris, Bruce McGill, Gloria Ruben, Gulliver McGrath, Walt Goggins

Premise: In January 1865, Abraham Lincoln was just entering his second term, having been re-elected by a seemingly divided people (Sound familiar?). The Civil War is winding down, but before it ends Lincoln is determined to put an end to slavery pushing for the passing of the 13th Amendment, much to the chagrin of the majority of the House of Representatives. The movie takes place in the President’s final months of office as he strives to get the amendment to pass, unite a divided, country and end the war.


My Review: Having just come out of a too-close-to-call presidential election, and our country re-electing President Obama for his second term, Spielberg’s Lincoln is extremely relevant to the present. Not only that, but President Lincoln was fighting for the civil rights of an oppressed group of people. That is also something that is especially significant in our times. These things make Lincoln all the more compelling, even if we know how it all ends. It is compelling because we relate to it (not to say it still wouldn’t be compelling if none of the above things were true.)

However, despite having a compelling story and theme, the movie was not without its faults. I found it extremely verbose and, well, a bit pretentious. Much of the characters spoke in grandiose, sometimes hard to follow monologues. Was that just how they spoke back then? Also, for the first hour or so (the movie is 2 hours and 26 minutes!) it moved rather slowly, the pacing dragged down by the talking, talking, talking. The picture was also moody, with a dark palette overall and a heavy use of the fog machine. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful thought out and framed, just moody… That being said, all that was forgivable thanks to the wonderful performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and the impeccable Daniel Day-Lewis.

Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible in his role of Abraham Lincoln and his performance is perfect. Yeah, you read me, perfect. Lincoln was passionate and intimidating as a politician, gentle and kind as a father, stubborn but loving as a husband, and tenacious and prone to long bouts of storytelling as President. Day-Lewis fully immerses himself in this character. When you see him on-screen he is Lincoln. He’s not playing Lincoln, impersonating Lincoln, or acting really really really well to be him. He. Is. Lincoln. We’ve all read the articles about how Day-Lewis is “method” almost to a dramatic and ostentatious way, and whether this is true or not, I have to say it pays off. He just commands screen presence and he made Lincoln the movie it is.

As for the supporting players, they were incredibly strong as well. Sally Field as Mary Todd as moments with Lincoln that take your breath away. She is absolutely heartbreaking and this might be one of my favorite performances from her (other favorites Forrest Gump and Mrs. Doubtfire). Tommy Lee Jones is also exceptional. I was skeptical of him portraying Thaddeus Stevens as from the Lincoln trailer, but really Tommy Lee Jones never disappoints.

Lincoln is not a war movie. It’s not at all the movie I thought it would be. While the movie good, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is what is MUST SEE about it. He will most definitely earn a well-deserved Oscar Nomination.


Rating: 3 ½ stars


Bonus Feature:

  • I saw a special screening of Lincoln that had a Q&A with Spielberg after it. Here are some fun facts I learned about his process in making this movie.
  • Prostetic make-up was not used in making Daniel Day-Lewis look like Lincoln, just aging make-up.
  • The movie was shot in scene order and by the end of the movie DDL had lost a significant amount of weight. When Grant said it looked as if Lincoln had aged 10 years, he meant it.
  • Spielberg casted the movie in terms of acting capability, not according to the actor’s likeness to the person they were portraying.
  • It was Spielberg’s choice to call Daniel Day-Lewis “Mr. President.” Day Lewis didn’t care either way.
  • Most of the de-saturated look was done during the filming instead of in post like usual thanks to director of photography Janusz Kaminiski.

**Minor Spoilers below**

  • The most difficult scene to film was the fight between Lincoln and Mary Todd because it was so emotional.
  • Spielberg chose not to show the actual assignation of Lincoln because he didn’t want that to be the last images that stuck in the audience’s brain about him. He also did not want to glorify Lincoln’s killer any more.
  • The scene at the end with how Lincoln’s assignation was announced to his son was absolutely true.




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