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Review of the Films: Lincoln

Updated on March 19, 2013


Lincoln is a 2012 biographical film drama about the 16th President of the United States. Based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin the movie focuses on the final few months of Lincoln's life and the efforts by him and the Republicans to get the 13th Amendment passed in Congress.

This film shows the most realistic depiction of the 16th President in film thus far. Abraham Lincoln is a man with flaws like most people, but it's refreshing to see Lincoln portrayed this way when he is often portrayed as a deity like figure. Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis deliver a historically accurate portrayal of the times and the man, making this one of the better biopics you can see. It's a film that's near perfection but falls short due to a few cheesy scenes that might make some viewers cringe. Nevertheless it's a great film about a great man.

Grade A- 9.3/10

Lincoln Plot Summary

Abraham Lincoln lived quite an eventful life and was leader of the United States during some of its most trying times. The point being there are many ways this film could have presented Lincoln's life to audiences, instead it focuses on the final few months of his life.

The primary conflict Lincoln faces is getting the 13th Amendment passed in Congress before he agrees to peace with the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment which would end slavery in the United States will only be accepted by Congress and the masses if it is passed to help end the war quicker. Due to racial tensions and the prevalence of prejudice in the United States at this time, where many Americans believed Blacks and Whites were not equal, this Amendment would stand no chance of being passed during peace time.

In reality Lincoln and his Cabinet know that the war is all but won, and he could very easily reach out to the Confederacy for peace and end the fighting and dieing. He however skillfully delays talking peace with the Confederacy while reaching out to the Conservatives and Liberals in his own party while simultaneously getting a few Democrats to work on passing the new Amendment.

Primary Cast of Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis
Mary Todd Lincoln
Sally Field
William Seward
David Strathairn
Thaddeus Stevens
Tommy Lee Jones
Francis Preston Blair
Hal Holbrook
Robert Todd Lincoln
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Primary Filmmakers of Lincoln

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy
Tony Kushner
Original Source
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Film Composer
John Williams
Janusz Kaminski

What's Great About Lincoln?

Lincoln above all, is a film that tries to be as historically accurate as possible. For example, there are scenes in the film that depict conversations between Lincoln and his wife Mary where the dialogue spoken between them is what is actually documented as being spoken by them. I'm specifically speaking about the carriage scene where they are talking about where in the world they would like to go. That conversation happened in that carriage at that time, and seeing it happen in the film gives the audience a very realistic depiction about the man Lincoln and the relationships he had with people, specifically his wife. Details like this are greatly appreciated.

Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor that portrays Lincoln in this film, is perfect in the role. Lincoln today is commonly depicted as a man with a low booming voice. This differs from the historical record, where Lincoln was described as having a high pitched voice. Day-Lewis chooses to use a high pitched voice for Lincoln, like the real Lincoln, that works perfectly. Day-Lewis is also able to depict Lincoln's humanity and his flaws while at the same time never going overboard or getting too dramatic as Hollywood likes to do. His physical likeness to the President is also remarkable, Day-Lewis really looks like Abraham Lincoln, it's borderline scary.

The supporting cast does an excellent job in their roles. The one-on-one scenes they do with Day-Lewis especially Sally Field (Mary Todd) and Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens) are perfectly acted and add a lot of tension to a film where most people already know what the ending is going to be. Tommy Lee Jones gets some screen time to shine alone and he's also got a lot of funny quips, too.

A Spielberg film couldn't be a Spielberg film without it's moments of lighthearted humor to help relieve some of the tension. Spielberg usually tones down these elements of his film-making style in his more serious films like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List, but he doesn't necessarily do that in this film. I thought I would be irritated about this aspect of the film when I was going in to see it, but instead it really worked for the most part and it creates a lot of entertaining scenes, too.

What's Not So Great About Lincoln?

Lincoln is a near flawless film except for a few scenes that are close to cringe worthy. One of these scenes appears within the first five minutes of the film. In this scene two black soldiers and two white soldiers fighting in the war recite the entire Gettysburg Address to Lincoln as he sits and listens. The Gettysburg Address is a great speech but having it being recited to the President in this film comes off like a lame lecture in an 8th grade history course. It adds nothing to the film, and it was very difficult to watch, why this had to be in the film I don't know.

The other major issue I had was with the extended ending. There is a great scene at the end of the film where Lincoln is seen walking out of the White House presumably to attend the play at Ford's Theater where he is killed. This would have been the perfect place to roll to credits since the audience already knows that Lincoln is going to be assassinated and the film is primarily about the passing of the 13th Amendment. What good does it do to show the assassination scene? No good at all.

Lincoln Is Recommended To......

Despite a few tainted scenes in the film Lincoln is extremely well done. This is mostly due to the acting of Daniel Day-Lewis and the supporting cast that surrounds him. This is the most realistic depiction of Abraham Lincoln yet set to film and that is incredibly difficult to do due to Lincoln's status amongst historians and the general populace as one the most important people in American history.

Lincoln is recommended to the people who really enjoy history and film-making. It's a mostly dialogue driven film where the dramatic tension is created by the script and actors. The historical accuracy and attention to detail will impress the Lincoln and Civil War history buffs, and hopefully provide insight to people looking to learn more about this fascinating President. Visually the film is impressive and well directed, it's easily Spielberg's best film since Saving Private Ryan.

Lincoln Trailer

What Did You Think About Lincoln?

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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 11 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That's a great analysis of the film. I did enjoy this film.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 5 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Nice job. Daniel Day Lewis was outstanding. So was Tommy Lee Jones. The entire cast was good. "Lincoln" and Lewis will be Academy Award contenders in my opinion.