Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lincoln Movie Review

A good biopic must be hard to make. You would have to summarize an entire life into a couple of hours, show the most dramatic highlights of someone life, and make sure the movie does it justice.  If you don’t do an absolutely amazing job, people who love and respect the individual the biopic is about will have a conniption fit. That’s probably why there hasn’t been many movies about Abraham Lincoln before Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012).
In 1865, as the American Civil War winds unavoidably towards its conclusion, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) seeks to pass a landmark constitutional amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States. This task is a race against time, for peace may come at any moment and if it comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it can become law. Lincoln must, by any means possible, obtain enough votes from the unruly Congress before peace arrives and it becomes too late. Yet the president is torn, as an early peace would save thousands of lives. While the nation confronts its conscience over the freedom of an entire population, Lincoln faces his own crisis of conscience; end slavery or end the war.
If you’re familiar with Daniel Day-Lewis and his movie roles such as The Last of the Mohicans, Gangs of New York, and There Will Be Blood you’ll likely assume, just as I did, that he doesn’t look like the 16th President of the United States. However, the makeup job which was done for Day-Lewis was astonishing to say the least. Compounded by his stellar acting, you almost believe that the man on screen actually is President Lincoln. He’s a plain-spoken, practical, down-to-earth man from the farmlands of the Midwestern US who exhibits a lack of social grace but has a great intelligence and knowledge of human nature. Lincoln is constantly telling seemingly unrelated stories, but when he gets started he’s almost like this affable grandpa, and you just want to go sit on his lap while he tells you a story. Day-Lewis is calm, self-confident, and powerful in this role and really brings this revered president to life.
Lincoln has a very large cast that includes Sally Field as Mrs. Lincoln, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William H. Seward, Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, and Jackie Earle Haley as Confederate States Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. There was not a single actor who didn’t do an amazing job with their role. Alongside Day-Lewis, it really helped portray a remarkably vivid story about passing the 13th Amendment.
The script they were given was also extraordinary. The dialogue wasn’t just good and well written, it was powerful! Lincoln is mostly calm and genteel, but there are times he speaks so powerfully and with such conviction that he’s almost intimidating; you can’t help but want to follow such a strong leader whose words are so profound and insightful. No wonder Lincoln was so well loved by the people. Famous historical words are beautifully woven into the script without making it sound like a stuffy, obligatory history lesson. The words of The Gettysburg Address are spoken with the greatest possible impact, but not by Lincoln himself. Since this movie is about an historical event, we all know how it will end before the first scene even starts. And yet the script is so powerfully written and draws you into the political suspense such that you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat while congress votes on the amendment.
It’s been nearly 150 years since the 13th Amendment was passed, but the political situation is still applicable today. We still see the results of this Amendment. The accurate portrayal of politics is remarkable. Seeing the two political parties nearly at each other’s throats over a proposed law isn’t unlike contemporary politics. The elected officials jeer and insult one another in a remarkably articulate way while still getting their point across to Congress. This is especially true of Thaddeus Stevens, who provided some comic relief to the movie; there are a lot of jeers from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party whom opposes the 13th Amendment. Still, the elected delegates that met to “discuss” politics yell, scream, and insult one another, which is also not unlike contemporary politics.
Lincoln wasn’t just a good movie, it was powerful. It’s a long movie at two and a half hours, but it’s so captivating and impressive that the time flies by. It’s a political drama, so viewers who don’t enjoy politics or drama films in general may not appreciate it as much. Personally, I don’t enjoy politics at all, and I enjoyed Lincoln a great deal. I strongly urge you to see this film; it’s powerful, dramatic, compelling, and still pertinent to today. It’s worth owning a copy of as both a beautiful piece of cinematic art and as a gripping tale about a significant land mark in the history of The United States of America.

Do you have a favorite political drama movie? What is it and why do you enjoy it so much? Comment below and tell me why!

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