Lincoln (2012)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:34 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

LINCOLN (2012) - Steven Spielberg

If you are reading this, then you know that the most common "connection" you have ever made to Abraham Lincoln was looking at his portraits, his face on the five dollar bill, and reading his speeches, most notably the Gettysburg Address. For years, we have all grown up writing essays and reading history books about what America has always called "the greatest president." Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be in his presence? Observe his towering height? His sense of humor? If you have, leave it to the phenomenal talent of Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Putting Spielberg back at the helm, Lincoln revolves around the 16th President's (Daniel Day-Lewis) final months in office, as he attempts to unite the country, pass the Thirteenth Amendment, and end the war, as he finds himself fighting a political war with his cabinet members.

The movie was astonishing to look at, one of the most refreshing films in recent years. Against the society of movies that are driven by visual effects and eye-candy, Steven Spielberg offers a virtual time machine, transferring us back to the 19th century, filled with sensational art direction, stimulating makeup, and inspiring acting. Yes, going back to the past is now more invigorating to look at compared to futuristic set designs. Lincoln does not just present a magnificent portrait of America's favorite president, but it also fully immerses us into the world of America when Lincoln was president.

Spielberg is truly one of the greatest directors of all time, mostly due to his power of being versatile and faithful to the art of filmmaking. As usual, he is extremely talented and pursues excellence when it comes to sharing his vision with the audience. When he made Schindler's List, you felt the horror of the Holocaust. When he made Saving Private Ryan, you felt the blood being spilled on the beach of Omaha. Here in Lincoln, Spielberg still has his capability to reach perfection. As a role of director, whose job is to adapt the material, Spielberg puts us into an exhausted America, already suffering from the Civil War, and invites us into the world of the politicians, who are still fighting their inner battle. However, this is where Spielberg's versatility comes in. Instead of showing what is going on outside, like he did in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, he chose to show us what is going on inside, making Lincoln one of the most performance-driven movies he has ever made.

Lincoln is a movie that is all about performance. Therefore, the cast is one of the most important factors in this film. Thankfully, the cast is the strongest element here. Backing Daniel Day-Lewis in this biographical drama is Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Arguably, Lincoln may have been difficult to understand due to the way people spoke back then. However, the dialogue is accurate for its time, and the movie indeed has a lot of names and a lot of political details. In a way, Lincoln is also a history lesson, and the supporting cast each enhanced the experience.

No matter how minor each role was in the film, each actor perfected his/her job. From Joseph Gordon-Levitt to James Spader. From David Strathairn to even Jackie Earle Haley. However, if one has to pay attention to the most renowned supporting performances, Lincoln is definitely a showcase for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field. With several entertaining moments, Tommy Lee Jones offers a rich performance that might as well earn him his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the first being his portrayal as a US Marshal in The Fugitive. He was perfectly cast and the script is well aware of his acting talents. It offers him much room for his flair due to the dialogue being given. This is filmmaking assisting a skillful actor at its best.

Mary Todd Lincoln, during her White House years, was a very complex and fragile figure. She loyally supported her husband in his mission to save the Union, but at the same time suffered mood swings, outbursts, and depression. For an accurate and lively portrayal of one of the most complicated and colorful women in American history, there is no one else who could have pulled it off other than Sally Field. Spielberg once claimed that she has always been his first choice, and in this critic's opinion, Sally Field is the second greatest choice Spielberg has made in this movie, the first being Daniel Day-Lewis. Throughout the film, Field holds you right at the heart and lungs. She will take your breath away and break your heart countless times, with a performance so overwhelming and so earth-shattering that the Academy must recognize her once again, the last time back in 1984.

In summary, the ensemble cast here is truly amazing. To agree with notable critic Leonard Maltin: "The cast is overflowing with talent, and every actor gets at least one moment in the spotlight." In fact, I recommend the Academy to add a new category. Call it "Best Ensemble Cast," and you know what I will say next.

Although Lincoln heavily triumphed with its supporting cast, this is a movie about the man -- the man who was originally planned to be portrayed by Liam Neeson, who portrayed Oskar Schindler in Spielberg's Oscar-winner. If you are coming to see Lincoln expecting a narrative that tells the story of Lincoln, you are partially wrong. The movie performs more than that. In addition to learning about the fight that Lincoln had in the White House, you can almost tell everyone that you have met the 16th president himself, thanks to an actor who has not only fallen in love with his character, but has completely become his character.

Daniel Day-Lewis was not in this movie. He really was not. Spielberg has not only used his time machine to take us back to the 19th century, but he has truly transported our nation's 16th president onto the set in front of the camera. We see him with a rather soft and thin voice. We see him hunched over despite his height. We see that the presidency and Civil War has profoundly aged him, yet we see him standing in front of us fighting for the abolishment of slavery. On screen, we learn that Lincoln indeed lacked the education and knowledge of politics, but he was strongly driven by intelligence, patience, confidence, and heart for the people. Within the first fifteen minutes, I have already forgotten that the President was portrayed by an actor. Daniel Day-Lewis, you shall receive a standing ovation, just like you "technically" received before when you gave the Gettysburg Address. With the words "Oscar Winner" written all over him, Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most immersed actors of all time. To agree with the film's producer, Kathleen Kennedy: "You get the chills thinking that Lincoln is sitting there right in front of you." As for the screenplay, there are several scenes with a great load of dialogue, all showcases for Daniel Day-Lewis to revive the slavery-fighting President. Assisted by the cinematographer, who knew when to give long single takes for monologues, Lincoln provides the greatest realism ever imaginable.

Lincoln is classic filmmaking, and it reminds movie critics and filmmakers what gives a movie its cinematic value -- this ranges from lighting to the framing of a shot to the literal movement of the camera. In all honesty, the film goes back to the definitive time when movies were made by visionary directors, where the art direction and cinematography were all analyzed and carefully arranged, where the actors can leave their true images behind and become the characters they are portraying. Every little piece that constructs Lincoln together is complete "textbook." It will be screened in film schools about the technical procedures and craftsmanship to filmmaking. Frankly, it is really difficult to believe that a film like Lincoln is made in the year 2012, a decade where films have been candidly brought down by corporations and businessmen who have transformed movies into assembly line products. This masterpiece by Steven Spielberg is proof that cinema is still well alive, still holds up, and still keeps the exhilarating impact that traditional filmmaking makes to the audience. It deserves my greatest respect not only as a film on its own, but its allegiance to the world of filmmaking.

In conclusion, Lincoln is a history textbook brought alive by Steven Spielberg. The film not only teaches and informs, but it also entertains the audience, whether it is witty dialogue given by Tommy Lee Jones, or portraying the sense of humor that Abraham Lincoln had as a man. As mentioned before, if you are seeking a time machine that will take you back to the nineteenth century, back to Lincoln's presidency, then Spielberg's Lincoln is the closest you can ever go to. With a talented ensemble cast, this performance-driven movie exceeds all expectations of a biographical drama about Lincoln as well as a Spielberg film in general. If you ever wondered what it would have been like to be in Abraham Lincoln's presence, Daniel Day-Lewis has truly brought him to life on the screen. As for Spielberg's part, Lincoln goes back to classic filmmaking, with skillful art direction, makeup, cinematography, and set pieces, proving that cinematic masterpieces of the people, by the people, for the people, shall never perish from the earth.


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