Posted: November 20, 2012 in Movie Reviews

When legendary director Steven Spielberg came out with his breath-taking masterpiece War Horse last year, I knew he had created a home-run; a rare gem in the world of the motion picture. Upon hearing that his next film would deal with perhaps our history’s most influential leader, I was already convinced that this would be another rare gem. And, indeed, it was. I do enjoy a good film every once in a while that sets entertainment aside and focuses on educating and stimulating.


Summary: (No spoilers)

With the Civil War dawning upon its fourth year, President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis—–There Will Be Blood, Last of the Mohicans) is looking for a quick and decisive end to the atrocious blood-shed America has been engulfed in for so long. The answer, he claims, is in the ratification of a 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution deeming slavery unethical and unlawful.

So emphatic is he on this amendment, that he hires lobbyists to persuade Democratic members of the House of Representatives to vote yes on it, giving him the two-thirds vote he needs. But many are not so convinced that this plan will indefinitely put an end to the war. “It’s either this amendment or the Confederate peace, you cannot have both,” says his secretary of state, while others are convinced that Congress should not strive for equality among those who God created unequal.

“Leave the Constitution alone!”

 Meanwhile, a troubled Mr. Lincoln must bear the responsibilities at home dealing with his bereaved and somewhat eccentric wife (Sally Field—–Forrest Gump, Mrs. Doubtfire) as the two cope with the death of their young son. All of this under the immense responsibility as commander in chief. With casualties growing higher each day, a nation fervently eager for peace, and little hope for his proposed amendment, President Lincoln must wrestle with himself on both his morality and his duty to his un-United States.

Also starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, and Tommy Lee Jones.


 “No one has ever been loved so much by the people,” says Mrs. Lincoln, “Don’t waste that power.” Indeed, it was President Lincoln’s charm and charisma that won the people over and gave him re-election, even in the wake of his unpopular Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln does an absolutely fantastic job of getting into the mind of our 16th president and truly capturing his nature, as well as portraying precisely what he went through in the last few months of his presidency. An incredible performance by Daniel Day-Lewis through this crowning achievement. I can guarantee that this man will be honored for his extraordinary feat. You completely forget the fact that you’re watching a movie and become absorbed into the story through Day-Lewis’s character alone. Everything about him, his mannerisms, the way he spoke, his gait, his character, how he conducted himself, everything was fantastically-researched and performed. Remember the name, because you will be hearing it at this year’s academy awards.

Each gray hair and wrinkle reflects the enormous responsibility this man had in leading his divided nation.

I was pleased to see that Spielberg didn’t go entirely with the popular take on the Civil War, portraying that it was not, in fact, fought entirely on the grounds of slavery. It was, in fact, fought on the grounds of states’ rights, and slavery was only a part of it. In the waning months of the war, President Lincoln used slavery as a means to put an abrupt end to the conflict forever, and his intentions for ending our nation’s heinous practice was not altogether humanitarian.

What we are left with is a stunning film that seeks to tell a riveting and moving story through the employment of a wonderful cast, completely authentic sets, wonderful cinematography, gripping dialogue, and a story that sets it apart from most other films. Even though you know what comes at the end, you can’t help but feel tremendous emotion towards this man; the one who, though his motives may not have been completely selfless, still managed to hold our nation together and put an end to an utterly un-Godly way of life.

About the only negative thing I could think of during this film was that it seemed slow in certain parts and dragged, but this is easily forgivable since this is not a film intended to entertain, but rather to educate and enlighten. While I personally would have preferred to see some more Civil War depictions (there were a couple brief scenes depicting battle), it would have taken away from the essence of the story.

Is it better than War Horse? Absolutely. Lincoln doesn’t ask for your emotions, it naturally attains them simply through the attention-demanding telling of the story. Like War Horse, it doesn’t pander to the faint of heart, and it shows exactly what the war was like and how Honest Abe dealt with it. By the film’s end, you can’t help but feel sorrow and remorse for this amazing man.

In a nutshell:

Lincoln is an absolutely compelling and beautifully told history lesson. It seeks for a higher level of film-making and delivers a well-balanced story filled with heart, passion, emotion, and poise. While you occasionally become lost in the somewhat confusing political dialogue and the slightly puzzling situations, you know enough to follow the events and know what is happening. Not only is it a true masterpiece that takes every opportunity possible to pay tribute to our courageous captain, but it is indeed one of this reviewer’s all-time favorite films.

10 stars

  1. Mrs. B says:

    Insightful review, my friend! You have now whetted my whistle even more to go see Lincoln! On the politically incorrect side, I appreciated your allusion to the fact that the Republican Party was the one that fought to end slavery in our country … a much ignored fact, to be sure! 🙂

    • davidc1776 says:

      It’s interesting how much history the books have wrong. As I mentioned, the war was not fought to end slavery, slavery was just something used to bring about peace. Also, Lincoln never demanded the amendment because he felt some moral obligation. In fact, he never intended for negroes to be considered “even” with white people, just “free” from slavery

  2. Isaac says:

    Interesting review David! While we’re talking about civil war era movies I’d like to make a recommendation of my own: Gods and Generals. It is created from a strong Christian standpoint, and very well made for this type of movie. It really features many true events the history books leave out. It is about Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general, and even though I know you’re a strong northerner, I think you’d find it pretty interesting since the facts in the movie are not well known at all.

    • davidc1776 says:

      I have heard of it, mostly that it’s a very well-done movie. I’ll be sure to find it and watch it now!
      As for being a strong northerner, I’m kind of reconsidering that. I read this book called “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” and it had some really interesting info on the Civil War, what it was really about, and the true viewpoint on Lincoln. Still a great man, but just not the Christian humanitarian we all think he was.
      Apparently the Confederate states had the right to succeed, but were forbidden because Lincoln saw it as an economic fiasco. And southerners didn’t own so many more slaves than northerners. So….. maybe the south wasn’t so bad after all.

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