Best Picture review – ‘Lincoln’

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Movies, Reviews

*Join me as I review all of the 2013 “Best Picture” Academy Award nominees*

Silver Linings Playbook

Django Unchained

Zero Dark Thirty

– Life of Pi

– Argo

– Beasts of the Southern Wild

– Amour

Les Misérables

– Lincoln


We all know the story of Abraham Lincoln – the country’s 16th president of the United States of America – and his abolishing of slavery, all the way up to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth.  However, we’ve never seen the emotional side of Abraham Lincoln and the trials and tribulations that he went through with his family and the toll it took on both him and the nation.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln takes us into the world of 1865 during the civil war where a young country doesn’t quite know what to do with itself and has turned to their leader for help.  It’s Spielberg’s best film since Saving Private Ryan and his best character study to date.  Lincoln is one of those rare films where director and main actor are so in tune with the film’s main character that the movie transcends film and you think you’re watching real events as they unfold.  It’s amazing, really.

The film is contained to a one month period – January 1865 – where Lincoln and much of the nation are fighting for the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery and outlawing involuntary servitude.  It’s a decision made by screenwriter Tony Kushner and Spielberg that pays dividends ten fold.  Rather than telling Lincoln’s story in the traditional biopic sense, we get to see one of the world’s greatest human beings in a confined space.  Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Lincoln like he was born to, give us Lincoln’s witty demeanor, his brutal honesty, and the character’s sense of fulfillment.  The tactics used by Lincoln and his cohorts while trying to get the 13th amendment passed would be considered no-no’s nowadays, but back then those tactics were more like a heavy game of chess.

While the star of the film is Day-Lewis and he’ll rightfully win yet another Academy Award for his performance, the film’s real hero is Thaddeus Stevens, played masterfully by Tommy Lee Jones.  Stevens, a congressman in opposition of slavery and a huge proponent of the 13th amendment, comes to the aid of Lincoln more often and more consistently then anyone else fighting for the Union.  He’s Lincoln’s true voice in Congress and you would say he’s the real reason slavery was abolished.  Lincoln got the accolades and deservedly so, but it was Stevens who fought the battles.  Jones’ portrayal of Stevens is so real and so lifelike (while playing Tommy Lee Jones) that you often wonder if Jones was born to play Stevens much like Day-Lewis was born to play Lincoln.  Jones is up for an Academy Award as well, which he’ll likely take home.

Other supporting characters, such as Lincoln’s wife Mary (played by Sally Field) and his eldest son – Robert (Joesph Gordon Levitt) – give the film a sense of calm and urgency as these characters give the audience a glimpse into Lincoln’s home life and how chaotic it often was.  Spielberg’s direction in this movie is why it is often more riveting than dialogue filled boredom.  His carefully twisted political thriller keeps us from throwing this one out the window and demanding more action.  Quite frankly, Lincoln doesn’t need any action, it’s that good.

War Horse was a “good” film – not nearly worthy of the Best Picture nomination it received, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Lincoln.  Half of Spielberg’s past films don’t hold anything to Lincoln, and that’s saying a lot.


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