October 31, 2014
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Lincoln
Don Fowler
5 stars
Reviewer's Rating:
Daniel Day Lewis is President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

(Outstanding portrait of Lincoln during the Civil War)

If you have a love for history, biography, politics and outstanding acting, writing and directing, this is the go-to movie of 2012.

Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Lincoln, with all of his strengths and weaknesses, with all of his power and insecurities. It is an Oscar-winning performance for certain.

Speaking of Oscars, don't rule out Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, the most outspoken supporter of the 13th Amendment. Jones, with his wrinkled face and mangy wig, steals every scene he is in. They also give us the one scene near the end of the movie that helps to clarify Stevens' passion for eliminating slavery. It is the most priceless moment of the movie...or any movie.

While we are aware of the historical events, writer Tony Kushner and director Steven Spielberg provide us with all the back room shenanigans and wheelings and dealings on both sides of the aisle.

Sally Field gives us an insight into Mary Todd Lincoln, the troubled (some say crazy) wife of our 16th president.

The stirring two and a half-hour movie begins as Lincoln begins his second term as president in January of 1865. We first see him visiting the Union soldiers, both black and white, as they prepare to return to battle. He is determined both to get the 13th amendment passed and to end the war, two noble goals that come in conflict with each other as the Democratic Party in the House hold the votes to defeat the amendment. Political junkies will enjoy the maneuvers by the Republicans to "convince" the opposition to come over to their side. The seemingly impossible challenge is to change 20 votes. The merits of the act aren't strong enough, so the gift of patronage, which we Rhode Islanders are quite familiar with, is used to the nth degree.

While this is a passionate and at times sad segment of United States history, Kushner has cleverly written in much humor, much of it dark and sardonic. There are so many good performances, starting at the top and down to the multitude of supporting and background actors. Each scene is framed effectively to bring out the mood of the moment, whether it be tender moments between the president and his wife and sons or the aftermath of violence on the battlefield.

Most of the movie concentrates on the actions of the members of the House of Representatives, both on the floor and in the back rooms. The language of the debaters is precise and dramatic.

Day-Lewis has so many great moments, ranging from his habit of telling stories to get his point across – a point that goes over the heads of most – to casually spouting out many Lincolnisms.

After the victories, Mary tells Abe that he has aged 10 years in the past two years, and the make-up people show us a tired, weary Lincoln who, against his better wishes, must take his wife to the theatre.

“Lincoln" is rated PG-13 because of a few brief scenes of the war and its aftermath. One scene at the hospital will bring tears to your eyes. There is brief profanity, but it is mostly a few "hells" and damns.” Starting with junior high school, this should be required viewing for every history student.


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