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Dysfunctional Politicians – A review of Lincoln

Updated on January 2, 2013
Sally Field is Mary Todd Lincoln and Daniel Day-Lewis is the 16th president in Steven Spielberg's epic drama, Lincoln.
Sally Field is Mary Todd Lincoln and Daniel Day-Lewis is the 16th president in Steven Spielberg's epic drama, Lincoln.

Summary: Bringing the last months of the 16th presidency to life with painstaking attention to detail, Spielberg, Day-Lewis and Jones deserve top commendations. The story and acting are brilliant.

Our founding fathers, in the late 18th century, worked diligently to create a representative democracy that would be able to responsibly develop laws that this country could accept and abide by. If they only knew the monster that they would create.

Even 150 years ago, the politics were as dysfunctional as they are today. This is not so much a film about the Great Emancipator as it is about the establishment of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, a law that would define Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

Passions ran high during the debates and, as one would suspect, not all the members of the House were as keen on the disestablishment of slavery. Ironically, it’s the Democrats who opposed Lincoln and the Republicans who abolished slavery. But elements on both sides wanted to prevent the former slaves from becoming citizens.

As Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant. He is a cutting figure to begin with and it looks as though he were born to play this role. His stooped posture (Lincoln was famous for slouching when he wasn’t at a podium), the deliberate mannerisms, his dignified tones and utter commitment to his beliefs all add up to bring Lincoln to life. We aren’t watching a movie about Lincoln as much as we are flies on the wall in the rooms of his life.

The rest of the handpicked cast are the glue that create this ultimate portrayal. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is the staunch advocate of citizenship for the former slaves, while Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair is a conservative adamantly opposed to citizenship. Sally Field shines as Mary Todd Lincoln and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is virtually unrecognizable as eldest son Robert, despite his numerous recent spate of big screen appearances.

As the head of the loyal opposition, Peter McRobbie gets the unenviable task of bringing to life a role that is obviously unpopular by today’s standards. The final vote, though, brilliantly vindicates the fence-sitters who, and it isn’t revealing any big secret to say this, pass the final tally with gusto and an exuberance that today’s Congress would more than likely lack the passion to enact.

Steven Spielberg is to be commended. His brilliant attention to detail helps to bring to life yet another passionate historical moment in time. It’s done without pretention and takes no sides, but shows the lengths that great men are willing to go to when they are willing to do what it takes to stand by their convictions. Lincoln is a must-see and deserves kudos on every level. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Yes, Lincoln was a brilliant politician. Anyone able to gain the votes needed to be elected president is a good politician.

      I think his vision was not negro emancipation as much as to maintain the Union. A movie about Lincoln which does not address the loss of life during the civil war is very narrow indeed.

      Dilemma: Maintain the Union at great loss of life or

      work to change society by education (slowly)?

      Honestly, I would put God above nation. Lincoln did the opposite.

    • BernietheMovieGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Bernie Ment 

      4 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      The film focuses more on the legislative acts needed to ratify the 13th amendment which would end slavery. There is no doubt that more could have been done to prevent the Civil War and history will poorly judge this aspect of Lincoln's Presidency. In reality, Lincoln was a brilliant man caught up in poor circumstances which could, frankly, have overwhelmed most men. He stayed steadfast to his vision of negro emancipation, however, and managed to achieve it in the end, even at the cost of his own life. To judge the man based on his failures rather than his successes is a poor substitute for praising his ultimate achievements. This film proudly does the latter. The book, though, delves much deeper into the events surrounding this situation and is actually much better than even the film.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      How does the film treat the deaths in the civil war? Lincoln was responsible for over 500,000 deaths (plus widows and orphans) which he could have avoided with diplomacy. Alternatives to fighting existed: primarily patience, public education, private education and the underground railroad. It is said Lincoln haunts the white house... no wonder.

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