Lincoln exudes a level of rich detail that is steeped into everything on the screen. From the costumes, the sets, and even the dialogue, everything is so utterly authentic and so well researched that it really does feel like you’re a fly on the wall.
Lincoln covers the last four months of Lincoln’s presidency. It details how he forced the 13th Amendment through, ending slavery and the Civil War, without giving in to pressures from his family and advisors who would have settled for an end to a bloody ferocious war.
Daniel Day Lewis is gives an extraordinary performance and completely inhabits Lincoln. He fleshes Lincoln out to be this man of incredible conviction, a vulnerable father and a wieldy statesman. Tommy Lee Jones gives one of his best performances ever, coming a close second to his ‘No Country for Old Men’ monologue. Sally Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln as a complex character, bereft at the loss of her son, but still inhabiting the role of First Lady, with all of its suffocating trappings.
There is no escaping the stark reality of war in this film. The war itself is only on for maybe five minutes of screen time, but the reality of two sides just lashing out at eachother, hand-to-hand really hits home. War is sometimes just a brawling mess. The family dynamics are utterly believable with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the passionate young man trying to be as courageous as his father, in his own way.
I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t understand every line, but you know what – good. Not everything should appeal to the lowest common denominator and some films should aspire to educate. It also inspired me to go and do a bit more reading about some of the characters I didn’t know well enough. It also means I’d go and see it again. What’s really strange is that although you know the ending, you’re still on the edge of your seat, which says a lot about how compelling the story-telling is.
I was nervous about this film because of Steven Speilbergs’ recent work; War Horse, Tintin in fact, everything since Minority Report has felt mediocre to me, but this is Spielberg at his best. What I really applaud the film for is conveying this huge as a personal story for Lincoln and a few choice people immediately around him. This isn’t a sweeping historical epic, but an intimate and detailed portrayal of how this momentous moment in American history came to pass. On a last final note though, this isn’t a history lecture, it’s an accurate depiction of the time with enough humour and stark human emotion for anyone to enjoy.