Film Review: “Lincoln” (2012)

There are several immutable ground rules for moviegoers that mandate unquestioned attendance. One is any film directed by Steven Spielberg and another is any film Daniel Day-Lewis appears in. Someday I’ll list the rest.

Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t do too many films. Anything he’s in is a lead pipe cinch to be good. That said, I resisted “Lincoln” because I thought there’d be a real chance of having to sit through a good actor struggle through a dry, period historical drama like “Anna Karenina”.  However, Rolling Stone gave “Lincoln” rave reviews and it rated 90% on the Tomatometer, so I gave it a chance.

The portrayal of Lincoln’s domestic life is passed over briefly to dwell on the politics of passing the 13th Amendment repealing slavery.  Lincoln is willing to the amendment passed by any means possible and his opponents are set on insuring its defeat. “Lincoln” brilliantly portrays the callous Barbary well as the subtlety of politics, what advocates and opponents are willing to do to pass or stop laws. It’s a vivid lesson in history and politics reminiscent of what’s going on in Washington right now.

“Lincoln” is a film treasure. It comes alive on every level. Spielberg’s cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, captures the style and texture of the film masterfully. Day-Lewis absolutely nails the characterization, but he relinquishes the center of attention to connect many other fabulous actors with incredibly strong performances. Sally Field yields an unusually interesting portrayal as Mary Todd Lincoln. The list then widens, including magnificent performances by James Spader, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn and many more. The whole manifests much more than the sum of its parts.

Best scenes: The political antagonists and protagonists describing each other in colorful terms on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Not so best scenes:  The issue of Lincoln’s assassination was treated as an extraneous aside.

Some of the real history is probably revised by Spielberg and doesn’t quite jive with that in the film, but the actors do a magnificent job of bringing history to life. Well directed and photographed.

I give it four and a half of five Derogatory shouts from the speakers box.  Must see.

 

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