Lincoln (12A)

Film

Lincoln.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jan 22 2013

In Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis plays America’s favourite president, Honest Abe, as a benign, wise, ageing goat. He can bare his teeth, but prefers to chew doubters into submission, like he’s turning over an old can between well-worn teeth. He launches into gentle, storytelling monologues as if employing stealth weaponry: the young and green lap them up; the seasoned and weary roll their eyes, submitting to conversational death by a thousand anecdotes.

This is not a biopic in the usual, cot-to-coffin sense, even if that carved-in-granite title suggests otherwise. Instead, Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner (‘Munich’) – drawing on a book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin – delight in the backroom wrangling and public rhetoric that in 1865 led to the 13th Amendment to the US constitution, outlawing slavery. This is Spielberg in the historical mode of ‘Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan but with his more epic and populist wings intriguingly clipped by a story that mostly takes place over just a few weeks in January 1865.

Kushner’s script is a masterpiece of miniature portraiture. The film’s thrust is the countdown to a vote as Lincoln and his agents battle to find enough Republicans and Democrats to back the amendment while simultaneously keeping end-of-war negotiations on track. It also offers moving comment on Lincoln’s relations with his strong but nervous wife, Mary (Sally Field, below), and his sons (the eldest played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as well as throwing us into the heart of the frenzied horse trading and high-stakes talk of this critical moment in American history. (Among a vast ensemble of actors playing politicians, there are enough hairpieces and beards on display to stitch together giant wigs for all four heads on Mount Rushmore.)

Especially electric is the push and pull between Kushner’s talky, microscopic script – unafraid of politics, long scenes and four walls – and Spielberg’s attraction, in cahoots with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, to quietly iconic moments: Lincoln’s famous beard silhouetted against the night or the faint shadow of soldiers riding past Ulysses S Grant (Jared Harris) and Lincoln as they chat on a porch. This doesn’t mean Lincoln is entirely free of heavy-handed moments – an early encounter between Lincoln and some young soldiers verges on the corny and there’s some near-slapstick stuff involving spivvy lobbyists. But mostly Spielberg finds a happy balance between the sober and the stirring, and even John Williams’s score is relatively muted.

It’s down to Day-Lewis, taking Kushner’s many prompts and in Spielberg’s reverent glare, to give us a greater sense of the man beyond these few weeks. His Lincoln is flat-footed and heavy-ankled; he shuffles down the White House corridor as if he’s dragging chains behind him. His shoulders are drooping, his eyes are weary, but his mind is as sharp as a bayonet. His Lincoln is complex and endearing, never fully likeable but always hugely admirable, and because of these happy contradictions Lincoln works as a snapshot of a great man without ever slipping into a portrait of sainthood.

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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Jan 25, 2013

Duration:

150 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Steven Spielberg

Cast:

Daniel Day-Lewis, Cliff Gordon, Tommy Lee Jones

Screenwriter:

John Logan

Users say

0
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|14
1 person listening
Donald Armes

Despite the good acting and direction the microscopic, confusing examination of a struggle to win a vote and very little more was a recipe for total boredom. The script just went round in circles and was largely on the lips of political windbags, Lincoln first and foremost. The Civil War, Lincoln and race relations hold a continuing fascination for the American public which may have derived some satisfaction from this film.

N. Galen

mmm… a protagonist who complete dominates a long film to the detriment of context and the other players in the story (though the abolitionist, limping senator with the black lover does gets close to stealing the show, and is rather more interesting than the hammily-acted Lincoln); Day-Lewis acts like he's focused on getting an Oscar rather than bringing a human being to life - Lincoln as portrayed is a strangely zombie character, an intelligent, articulate zombie, but still a zombie; I greatly appreciate Spielberg's attempt to deal with political process and I appreciate the lack of 'action' but somehow the context is missing and after seeing the film I know some more facts but very little about what makes these politicians tick; and the lighting is way too stylised, beautiful but unremittingly unreal, so the film falls between the stools of docufiction and costume drama, with costume drama winning out; and the second subject of the film - slavery - is almost complete absent (unlike Django Unchained) except as a verbal abstraction

jay

The fire Trojan that is Daniel Day-Lewis strikes again. This hat-trick that he has forged for himself has been cemented with an incredible tactile, illuminated performance of an American icon. Yes, it it is very dialogue driven, but without Lewis in the drivers seat, this could be one heck of a mundane history lesson. Doris Kearns Goodwin's book serves as the perfect template for a logistical narrative - although without it, there would be no movie. It comes down to Tony Kushner's adaptation to hone in her studies, and make for one heck of a riveing piece of drama. Day-Lewis has stated that he wants to step down from acting. Yet, on many occasions, he has always implemented a self-imposed sabbatical between projects; that is until Scorsese's delayed 'Silence' can coax him from such exile.

villardi

Too many reviewers want to play politics instead of reviewing the film and all the usual anti Spielberg mob venting their spleen. First how nice to have a film based around quality acting and speech instead of action, 3D and special effects. The interpretation of Lincoln was fairly accurate as far as I know, having spent some time studying the American Civil War. The screenplay was adapted (very well) from a recent book so don't blame Spielberg for that either. Yes a little syrupy at times but Day Lewis, Sally Field and especially Tommy Lee Jones all superb for me. See it, enjoy it and ignore all those people who were bored and are going to see Die Hard 27. PS I enjoy action movies too!

AgentFruit

It's not often I feel the need, desperately, to leave a film. Today was one of those very rare occasions. Unfortunately I was hemmed in by politeness and people. 148 minutes of utter boredom, repetitive lines, this film has absolutely nothing to recommend it. There isn't even anything visual to enjoy, being almost monochrome in its dullness, but not nearly as interesting. Quite why the critics are going crazy for it completely baffles me, though in a way I'm not surprised - it's got Spielberg's name on it and once one critic has had his palm greased, the rest have to follow suit for fear of looking like they don't know something. The user reviews are less than enthusiastic on the whole, and if you look elsewhere they're pretty dire. If you want a good sleep, go see this film. Dreadful.

DutchFilmFan2013

Daniel Day-Lewis will most probably go home with his third Best Actor Oscar in three week's time with his simply incredible performance of President Lincoln! What an amazing performance it was indeed and he was backed-up by solid performances as well from Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straitharn, Jared Harris, Joseph Gordon-Levitt etc.. The two really *loud* populist politicians in this film who tried to block the 13th amendment reminded me of one or two populist politicians in my own country: nothing much has changed after all these years apparently when it comes to politics. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea but I enjoyed every minute of this rather long 150 minutes film; for me this is one of Mr. Steven Spielberg's best *serious* films so far.

AriesatLarge

I found the first half of the film rather boring but the second half very interesting. In my opinion, it's worth only to watch Daniel Day Lewis acting. Unless you are most interested in politics, the push and pull, and American history, of course.

Ian

I find myself agreeing with the viewers rather than the reviewer. Daniel Day Lewis is excellent and is given able support by Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones but the film is a bit of a stinker. I found myself nearly falling asleep after about half an hour. Spielberg lays the Saint Abe on a bit thick and for much of the film it feels like a rather slow documentary. I will be amazed if it wins any of the "big" Oscars other than best actor for Daniel Day Lewis. A good 3 star film not up to best picture standards.

philsee

"Lincoln" is American imperialism's creation myth. The lengthy wordiness of the film gives an impression of a history lesson. Unfortunately, it's slow boring fiction. The book on which the film is based was not written by a historian The war was provoked by manufacturing tariffs imposed by the north on the south, which is why the south wanted to secede. It was nothing to do with slavery. Lincoln offered to confirm slavery in the US Constitution in order to keep the south in the union, at the time of his first inauguration. Lincoln's emancipation declaration was issued 18 months into the war, when the north was losing, in an attempt to get anti-slavery European support for his war. Lincoln negotiated with European powers to expel freed slaves to Africa after the war. It is likely the south would have had better race relations if it had been forced by economic necessity to abolish slavery, like every other nation, rather than imperialist conquest by the north. There are more black people in US prisons today than were ever US slaves in the 19th century. It's funny to hear self-professed liberals like Kermode and Bacon fawning over Spielberg for the making of this film. The film generates some dramatic tension up to the constitutional amendment vote, however the idea of Lincoln running around to get it to pass is not credible. Day Lewis is effective in depicting a popular version of Lincoln, but with few historical images and no voice recordings he has lots of scope.

johnosullivan

Bad history lesson given by cliche driven fan boy I thought Abe wanted to repatriate the slaves... Only trick missed by Stevie was the halo burning bright above DDL head...Munich showed promise c+ must try harder

Ivette Fred Rivera

Fitted for Eternity It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Last passage of the Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg, 
Abraham Lincoln 
November 19, 1863.) Opening shot: the American Civil War, the first person we see and hear is a black man, soldier during 10 long years, the second we hear is Lincoln -whom we don’t see yet, we will see him very soon from the back, the same position as the audience’s- asking him about his situation, the third that speaks is another black soldier . They are paid less than whites. But in a hundred years, they will vote. The soldier has vision and recites words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863, the most quoted words in American political history. Lincoln asks and listens to the Other: “Abraham Africanus the 1rst", as his detractors called him. The movie shows Lincoln’s distinctive command of language, his good sense of humor, his ability to tell stories and to make the political issue personal to others by narrating an anecdote or a parable. Also his capacity for argumentation, guided by a clear vision. For example, his knowledge of Euclid’s self-evident principles gives him visionary imagination. Mathematics and logic as well as ethics have to do with the imagination, with seeing the consequences of the premises, and seeing the consequences of one’s actions. Lincoln strongly believed that we had to end first slavery, then the Civil War, as the first was the cause and the second the effect. This seems simple, self-evident reasoning, but it is really difficult to recognize the order of priorities, which comes first and what comes next. His advisers saw it exactly reversed. Lincoln is emphatic: the passing of the thirteenth amendment is a military necessity. Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) advised him after the reelection: ‘you are loved by people, you can do whatever you want now, do not waste this opportunity’. The depiction of the relationship between Mr. President and Mrs. President is an asset in the characterization. Mrs. Lincoln says that her experience would help ordinary people, presumably like herself, to understand what means to live with an extraordinary man during extraordinary times. (The irony involved reminded me Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.) The characterization of Lincoln is well balanced because of these interactions. Though Lincoln is very conscious of his solitude, calls himself "the king of infinite space", and prefers to think alone. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), the most powerful abolitionist in the House, takes the House approval of the thirteenth amendment to his maid-mistress. For a moment I thought he would take it to Lincoln, at the top, to celebrate their triumph, but instead he brought it to whom this resolution will directly affect in real life, the people who are at the bottom, with no voice as are not considered people. Very tragic and ironic for the Democratic Party to have been so blind and troglodyte in this historic moment. Lincoln is not afraid of the future, the unknown, the challenges ahead, he recognizes that he does not know black people and that he defends their freedom as a matter of principle (as a Kantian would do), he will learn from, and experience with them in the process. Interesting, Lincoln needs to see the corpses. ‘Never have seen anything like this.’ Excellent cinematography by Janusz Kaminski; mastery of light and shadow, chiaroscuro, of the composition of cinematographic space, interiors and exteriors, of angles, particularly, the diagonals that give movement, depth and the impression of a larger space. The windows, outside light coming through the window to the interior space, and the exterior seen in the distance. Father and young son, their shadows, reflected as a vision of free future generations. These techniques were masterly used by Vermeer and Murnau. Excellent performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. Very handsome and stylized Lincoln!! "How tall is he?" The height, the attitude, the physical and moral heights. It is very difficult to perform “Lincoln�, he is very iconic and heavy. Father Abraham wants to travel to the Holy Land after so many years of suffering. A black servant is the last person seeing President Lincoln walking away from the camera after his Amendment has been passed. Lincoln’s death, the first US president assassination, is presented briefly. It reminded me of the Iliad where neither the death nor the funeral of Achilles appear. In the penultimate shot, dead Lincoln is lying on a small bed, nestled as a baby, his face quite calm, it is obvious that his murder has not astonished him; then in the final scene at the Capitol, Lincoln is standing erect, in action, delivering a speech to the multitude in the middle of the frame. Again, command of composition, of inner space and outer space. For Lincoln, as a responsible president (as in the case of king Oedipus), both spaces, both bodies -the political and the private- are only one. Thank you very much for the beautiful gift, director Spielberg. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party duly shall have been convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.� (Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1)

Ivette Fred Rivera

Fitted for Eternity It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Last passage of the Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg, 
Abraham Lincoln 
November 19, 1863.) Opening shot: the American Civil War, the first person we see and hear is a black man, soldier during 10 long years, the second we hear is Lincoln -whom we don’t see yet, we will see him very soon from the back, the same position as the audience’s- asking him about his situation, the third that speaks is another black soldier . They are paid less than whites. But in a hundred years, they will vote. The soldier has vision and recites words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863, the most quoted words in American political history. Lincoln asks and listens to the Other: “Abraham Africanus the 1rst", as his detractors called him. The movie shows Lincoln’s distinctive command of language, his good sense of humor, his ability to tell stories and to make the political issue personal to others by narrating an anecdote or a parable. Also his capacity for argumentation, guided by a clear vision. For example, his knowledge of Euclid’s self-evident principles gives him visionary imagination. Mathematics and logic as well as ethics have to do with the imagination, with seeing the consequences of the premises, and seeing the consequences of one’s actions. Lincoln strongly believed that we had to end first slavery, then the Civil War, as the first was the cause and the second the effect. This seems simple, self-evident reasoning, but it is really difficult to recognize the order of priorities, which comes first and what comes next. His advisers saw it exactly reversed. Lincoln is emphatic: the passing of the thirteenth amendment is a military necessity. Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) advised him after the reelection: ‘you are loved by people, you can do whatever you want now, do not waste this opportunity’. The depiction of the relationship between Mr. President and Mrs. President is an asset in the characterization. Mrs. Lincoln says that her experience would help ordinary people, presumably like herself, to understand what means to live with an extraordinary man during extraordinary times. (The irony involved reminded me Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.) The characterization of Lincoln is well balanced because of these interactions. Though Lincoln is very conscious of his solitude, calls himself "the king of infinite space", and prefers to think alone. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), the most powerful abolitionist in the House, takes the House approval of the thirteenth amendment to his maid-mistress. For a moment I thought he would take it to Lincoln, at the top, to celebrate their triumph, but instead he brought it to whom this resolution will directly affect in real life, the people who are at the bottom, with no voice as are not considered people. Very tragic and ironic for the Democratic Party to have been so blind and troglodyte in this historic moment. Lincoln is not afraid of the future, the unknown, the challenges ahead, he recognizes that he does not know black people and that he defends their freedom as a matter of principle (as a Kantian would do), he will learn from, and experience with them in the process. Interesting, Lincoln needs to see the corpses. ‘Never have seen anything like this.’ Excellent cinematography by Janusz Kaminski; mastery of light and shadow, chiaroscuro, of the composition of cinematographic space, interiors and exteriors, of angles, particularly, the diagonals that give movement, depth and the impression of a larger space. The windows, outside light coming through the window to the interior space, and the exterior seen in the distance. Father and young son, their shadows, reflected as a vision of free future generations. These techniques were masterly used by Vermeer and Murnau. Excellent performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. Very handsome and stylized Lincoln!! "How tall is he?" The height, the attitude, the physical and moral heights. It is very difficult to perform “Lincoln�, he is very iconic and heavy. Father Abraham wants to travel to the Holy Land after so many years of suffering. A black servant is the last person seeing President Lincoln walking away from the camera after his Amendment has been passed. Lincoln’s death, the first US president assassination, is presented briefly. It reminded me of the Iliad where neither the death nor the funeral of Achilles appear. In the penultimate shot, dead Lincoln is lying on a small bed, nestled as a baby, his face quite calm, it is obvious that his murder has not astonished him; then in the final scene at the Capitol, Lincoln is standing erect, in action, delivering a speech to the multitude in the middle of the frame. Again, command of composition, of inner space and outer space. For Lincoln, as a responsible president (as in the case of king Oedipus), both spaces, both bodies -the political and the private- are only one. Thank you very much for the beautiful gift, director Spielberg. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party duly shall have been convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.� (Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1)

david

one of the most tedious films I have ever had to sit through. Really? We freed the slaves? Lincoln gets shot? Worse and longer than history class.