MPAA Rating: PG-13
Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook and Tommy Lee Jones. Historical drama. Written by Tony Kushner. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Steven Spielberg directs two-time Academy Award® winner Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, a revealing drama that focuses on the 16th President’s tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Sorry actioneers, this isn’t a sequel to the one where the 16th President whacks off the heads of the living dead. But although there will be no zombies or wolfmen to conquer, I think you’ll find this a very satisfying film-going experience. Rather than battling creatures of the night, he has to conquer the Democrats (do your own joke here). Interestingly, it was the abolitionist Republicans who were behind the 13th Amendment, while the “dim-o-crats” (as Tommy Lee Jones as Congressional Leader Thaddeus Stevens refers to them in the film) were against it. Go figure.
Erudite, but a bit verbose, the production is more stage like, with most of the action represented via intelligent, witty and often profound dialogue. This Lincoln stresses the Great Emancipator’s savvy political agility, at times causing us to forget that this is a film by Steven Spielberg, not telestorian Ken Burns. (His lengthy documentary on the Civil War is the quintessential examination of the War Between the States. It is a moving learning experience about the foibles and nobility of the human spirit.) But that’s not to say that this bio drama is boring. Though long at 150 minutes (John Ford told his Lincoln story in 100 minutes back in 1939), it reveals the political process of wheeling and dealing many of us thought reserved by its practitioners of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Of course Daniel Day Lewis gives another award-worthy, bravura performance and is ably supported by a fine cast. But it is Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln who stands out in my thinking. It is a three-dimensional portrayal, the actress reminding viewers that she well deserved her two Oscars (Norma Rae, Places in the Heart). Humorous in some scenes, morose in others, and word- wealthy in each, her screen presentation of this complicated historical figure may be the finest performance given by an actress this year.
No doubt it will be hard to get followers of the fantastical Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to sit still through this talky drama, but what a respectful movie pictorial of a man who was, in all ways, taller than most.
The timing of the film's release coincides with 150th anniversary of the days leading to, and the issuance of, the Emancipation Proclamation:
“The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued to the executive agencies of the United States by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War. It was based on the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces; it was not a law passed by Congress. It proclaimed all slaves in Confederate territory to be forever free; that is, it ordered the Army to treat as free men the slaves in ten states that were still in rebellion, thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. The Proclamation immediately resulted in the freeing of 50,000 slaves, with nearly all the rest (of the 3.1 million) actively freed as Union armies advanced. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves (called freedmen) citizens. It made the destruction of slavery an explicit war goal, in addition to the goal of reuniting the Union.
“On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation that he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. None returned, and the order, signed and issued January 1, 1863, took effect except in locations where the Union had already mostly regained control. The Proclamation made abolition a central goal of the war (in addition to the original, officially-stated goal of maintaining the Union), outraged white Southerners who envisioned a race war, angered some Northern Democrats, energized anti-slavery forces, and weakened forces in Europe that wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy.
“Slavery was made illegal everywhere in the U.S. by the Thirteenth Amendment, which took effect in December 1865.” *
The only fly in the ointment for me is the 12 uses of God’s name followed by a curse, two by the lead character. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me to hear God’s name spoken irreverently. Please remember that my reviews are not about promoting a film. While I hope you find my critiques a fun, informative read, it is the synopsis and content (the reason for the rating) I hope will influence your decision as to whether or not you should support a film. Hard call, this one. Should we support a resonate salute to a historical figure who helped change the world? Or, do we refrain from attending a movie that profanes God’s name? Your choice.
*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.
Obscene Language: Around 10 obscenities, several minor expletives, the use of the N-word by bigots
Profanity: 12 uses of the profane expression “God d---“and one misuse of Christ’s name.
Violence: The opening scene takes place on a battlefield; we see combatants go hand to hand, with several gory killings by bayonets; we see amputated limbs dumped into a huge grave – the visual is sickening. We see blood dripping from a wagon carrying amputated limbs.
Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None
Drugs: Some wine is drunk.
Running Time: 150 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature teens and Up
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