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Lincoln (2012 film)

A film about the 16th president of the U.S. directed by Steven Spielberg

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The historian in Spielberg became a confused story-teller.

  • Jan 8, 2013

A film named "Lincoln" spreads specific expectations. The audience needs to be in touch with the man's life, needs to understand him and to get behind his motivations and wishes. When the only thing you get is a film dedicated to one single important event from this man's life, then at least the audience would want a better understanding of why this person pursued this dream of his. When you don't even get a clear picture of that, then my friend, the film finds himself in a blind corner. Spielberg's take on Lincoln is by far his weakest take on anything in the last years. The film is not bad as in it's narrative opening and construction. It has it's qualities, it explores the 13th amendment pretty well and fair, but the problem is it's just about that. And even if Lincoln is at the center of this historical achievement, you don't really feel it. You see it on screen, you see Lincoln talk but what he really says that makes the audience understand his motivations? What does he really do? From where these motivations come from? Why this inner desire to fight against a wave of naysayers? Why did he aged so much in the last few months? What hurts him so much and what brings him joy? These are question that the film does not give answers for. 

You see 'Ol Abe smashing his palm in the table few times but even then there's something missing. And the other times you see Lincoln speaking is when he quotes people or segments of literature. Sure, they have their meaning, and they are connected to the problem at hand, but that's not an insight in this man's life. That doesn't offer much clarity in who this man was besides the obvious. It's kinda disappointing, because it takes away from the emotional weight of the film. On top of that, the supporting cast, the people around Lincoln, are better shaped thus they're more relatable and understandable. Lincoln also suffers from being too cold. It's been long since I've seen a Spielberg film that made me feel almost nothing. This man has a gift for teasing the soul and he wasted that here. Even the way it's shot. The framing was good but that blackness covering like seventy percent of the screen all the time gives the film a confusing tone. What am I supposed to get out of this? I felt forced to like it, to feel something about this incredible man that is continuously augmented to a godlike status. The problem is I never understood why, because all I got was a bigger picture of one single event in which our hero had much to say, but was shown in such light that you don't quite realize that. And to put the cherry on top, the ending makes no sense whatsoever. It has nothing to do with the 13th amendment, it has to do with Lincoln alone, and since the film has weak links to Lincoln as a man of state and a human being, then it makes no sense for that ending to happen. You have a whole film dedicated to the 13th amendment and now you want to end it as a biopic? Please... There's an iconic shot of Lincoln at the end walking down the White House corridor. That's where the movie should have ended. 13th amendment? Job done. 

Of course this is mainly me releaving my frustration and disappointment with the film. Like I said, the film has value on it's own if only the title was something else. You get a lot of good stuff in here as well. Besides the good narration and the good architecture of that century and decade, I love that John Williams didn't do too much this time avoiding a jump on the melodramatic horse. The music felt more like ambient music which gave the film a beautiful ghostly exposition. Then there's this great gathering of actors giving quality performances. Besides luxurious performances from Sally Field, David Strathairn, and Tommy Lee Jones, there's obviously Daniel Day-Lewis as our beloved Lincoln. He's a master of this craft and this film proves it once again. I'm not even sure what I should say about Daniel Day-Lewis anymore. He's a work of art on it's own. On of my acting idols, and the man I totally respect and understand the most from the world of acting. Either he's a genius or a paint brush on this huge canvas, that's for you to decide. Daniel Day-Lewis gives life to Lincoln as no actor could have done. At the same time, I feel this sorrow. I feel that the film's confusing tone kinda rips you away from it and there's the risk of not fairly judging Daniel's portrayal.

I don't know what Spielberg wanted to do with this film. I doubt he did this just to rank up some more Oscar nominations and possible wins. I don't think I will ever understand it completely. If he tried to tell history through one man's eye here, then I guess the historian in him became a confused story-teller. 

Story: 8.5
Acting: 9.5
Technical Execution: 8.0
Replay Value: 7.5

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January 09, 2013
This movie I liked more than I should've had, but the performances sold me.
January 08, 2013
I saw this film exactly as you did and echo all the points you made. There is an interesting article today on CNN's website promoting a tv documentary called The Abolitionists that says the 5 abolishionist were the real heroes of the 13th Ammendment and Lincoln wasn't as noble as he is being portrayed. Interesting stuff.
January 09, 2013
I heard something similar myself.
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Julian Left ()
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Movies, Civil War, Slavery, Abraham Lincoln, Political Intrigue, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, Daniel Day Lewis, Tim Blake Nelson, David Strathairn, Jackie Earle Haley, The 13th Amendment, Lincoln Movie Review, James Spader, John Hawkes, Jared Harris


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