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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Sally Field
Daniel Day-Lewis
Tommy Lee Jones
David Strathairn
James Spader.
Directors
Steven Spielberg.
Screenwriters
Tony Kushner.
Running Time
150 minutes

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Lincoln
Aka The Spielberg Address


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Plot
A vivid account of Lincoln’s (Day-Lewis) mission to sway the House Of Representatives and pass the 13th Amendment, effectively outlawing slavery.


Review
Lincoln
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Give a director a President, and you’ll get something of the filmmaker in return. Oliver Stone brewed paranoid tempests out of Nixon and JFK, and made wry fun of Dubya in W. Steven Spielberg, with his long-mooted look at the 16th and most hallowed of American Presidents, shows us the instinctive showman and restrained thinker. He and Abraham Lincoln have a lot in common.

With Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Obama-endorsed biography Team Of Rivals as his font, playwright Tony Kushner fashioned a 550-page script of Lincoln’s political life, only for his director to lop off the last 80 pages and narrow his aim. That decision is amongst the most inspired of Spielberg’s career — ditch the biopic’s hoary formula and encounter the man at the furnace door of crisis.

So no dirt-poor Kentucky childhood. No rise to greatness. No Gettysburg Address. And only isolated dispatches from the Civil War. The trappings of family occupy subplots where his eldest son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rages to enlist — his father wants to shield him even as he sacrifices countless unknown sons — and his unstable wife Mary (Sally Field) exhausts him with her headaches and heartbreak, even as she turns a Rottweiler’s frown upon her husband’s opponents.

This is a film dedicated to the heated final months of Lincoln’s second term. Specifically, his attempts to get the 13th Amendment, banning slavery, passed by the House Of Representatives. And if that sounds dry and talky, it couldn’t be more thrilling... and talky. Lincoln knew the soul of a nation was at stake, and, unthinkably, dared to obstruct peace in the Civil War to get the bill passed.

In Kushner’s intricate script is a clinical understanding that if the bill was delayed in order for the South to return to the Union it might never be passed — slavery would continue. This, then, is a song to democracy at its most valuable: the biography of a political moment. Spielberg demands your concentration, but his film is not a slog; it is compelling, full of beauty, and overflowing with personality.

Thought has been placed into every line and shot, a fluid marriage of image and word where the camera speaks and the language springs to life. Much has been made of how restrained Spielberg is in his direction, but that belies the elaborate framing and the coffee-dark richness of design; how the light comes thickened with dust and tobacco smoke as if it somehow has substance. And the drawing of strident performances from the massive supporting cast.

To achieve his goal, Lincoln would use every means at his disposal: argument, persuasion, threat, bribery, a ready supply of salty parables, and in one sensational scene, sat about a smoke-shrouded table with his nettlesome cabinet, the exercise of titanic will. “I am clothed in awesome power,” Daniel Day-Lewis rails, his hand slamming the tabletop as passions well up. By fair means or foul, he will sway those wavering votes in the House where, in 1865, the persuasions of Democrat and Republican were the reverse of today.

Rather than buff up the legend, already carved into Mount Rushmore, Spielberg scrapes the surface to uncover a rough-hewn practicality. Idealism needs to twist a few arms, to wheedle, to get its way. Honest Abe could be a devious so-and-so.

Lincoln is often very funny. In near-slapstick mode, three oily operatives, led by a bounteously moustachioed and profane James Spader, are dispatched to romance or bully the inbetweeners. And no-one is having as much fun as Tommy Lee Jones, his face as immobile as a cliffside as the great Thaddeus Stevens, the radical emancipator convinced to set aside his all-or-nothing convictions. In “full froth” Stevens could reduce rivals to quivering wrecks, something noted of Mr. Jones by quivering interviewers.

Of anything, you catch a scent of the Coen brothers. Here is a meticulous American milieu where obstinate men with crazy facial hair hurl insults at one another in a baroque compendium of Twainian whimsy, Shakespearean oratory, Biblical commandment and the florid spin doctoring of the day, including the single greatest use of the word “nincompoop” in cinema history. Kushner nudges his director into satire, for what are politicians if not actors? What is the House if not a theatre? But the gravity is never in question. In a glimpse of a world beyond lamp-lit Washington, Lincoln inspects the devastation of Petersburg from horseback, a bitter panorama of violated bodies: there can be savage wrongs in doing the right thing.

Perhaps fittingly, the Anglo-Irish Day-Lewis has come to represent the schizoid heart of American history: as pioneer Hawkeye in The Last Of The Mohicans; wicked, flag-draped hood Butcher Bill in Gangs Of New York; soulless tycoon Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood; and now tin-voiced emancipator Lincoln. A peerless researcher, he stoops his neck and stiffens his limbs to create Lincoln’s reputedly wooden gait, as ungainly as RoboCop. His voice is wry and reedy and takes getting used to. He is a ruminative, elusive, half-smiling presence dressed like an undertaker, given to quoting Euclid and Hamlet at the drop of a stovepipe, and Spielberg veils him in shadow and crowns him in silvery halos. It is a shame the final, unnecessary five minutes feel the need to hastily re-sanctify Lincoln for a melodramatic sign-off, for this is a micro-study in restraint: the neat concentration of a staggering man, and Day-Lewis maintains a tantalising balancing act between flesh and marble. Our first sight of him finds Lincoln with his back to us, sitting before a bandstand, an echo of the memorial to come, listening as black soldiers pointedly recite his Gettysburg lines back to him — the message is radiantly clear: live up to your words.


Verdict
As unexpected as it is intelligent, thanks to virtuoso work from Spielberg and Kushner, Lincoln is landmark filmmaking, while Day-Lewis is so authentic he pulls off that stovepipe.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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RE: Bone-biting weariness...

Sometimes people just wanna share their opinion, without the forum police quoting, misquoting and taking their point apart. Adam is very good at this, and I've seen him belittle people on here many times, which is why I was having a go at him. He is pretentious and he tries to prove people wrong. Films are not that important, they're not life and death. If I say I'll wait for DVD because people are tweeting the film is boring, and the trailer makes it look boring, who cares? People are ba... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:33, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: theoriginalcynic L: Deviation I know Zero Dark Thiry is overrated because I saw Bret Easton Ellis' tweets of it. He wrote American Psycho so he cannot be wrong. nother film that's most likely terrible. Give me Point Break any day ote] I know right. I know because I saw tweets of it and now I'm the Buddha. Btw, isn't admitting being a wind-up merchant a sure way to get you a warning or a temp-ban? ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:31, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: theoriginalcynic L: Deviation Why on Earth did you feel to qoute my post twice? Wasn't one qoute good enough for you? L: theoriginalcynic And the difference between people on twitter and film critics is? Both are people's opinions. At this point I would rather take the word of people on twitter than Empire's, who are nearly always wrong. ike I don't know, A MORE FUCKING EXPERIENCED WELL WRITTEN ANALIZED PERSPECTIVE FROM PEOPLE WHOSE PEOPLE YOU TRUST (i'm not even sayin... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:30, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: Deviation I know Zero Dark Thiry is overrated because I saw Bret Easton Ellis' tweets of it. He wrote American Psycho so he cannot be wrong. nother film that's most likely terrible. Give me Point Break any day ... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:30, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

I know Zero Dark Thiry is overrated because I saw Bret Easton Ellis' tweets of it. He wrote American Psycho so he cannot be wrong. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:28, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: Deviation Why on Earth did you feel to qoute my post twice? Wasn't one qoute good enough for you? L: theoriginalcynic And the difference between people on twitter and film critics is? Both are people's opinions. At this point I would rather take the word of people on twitter than Empire's, who are nearly always wrong. ike I don't know, A MORE FUCKING EXPERIENCED WELL WRITTEN ANALIZED PERSPECTIVE FROM PEOPLE WHOSE PEOPLE YOU TRUST (i'm not even saying critics or twitter here,... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:28, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: theoriginalcynic Both are people's opinions. At this point I would rather take the word of people on twitter than Empire's, nearly always wrong./quote] Provided it's predicated on having actually seen the flick, there's no such thing as a wrong opinion. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 23:26, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

Why on Earth did you feel to qoute my post twice? Wasn't one qoute good enough for you? L: theoriginalcynic And the difference between people on twitter and film critics is? Both are people's opinions. At this point I would rather take the word of people on twitter than Empire's, who are nearly always wrong. ike I don't know, A MORE FUCKING EXPERIENCED WELL WRITTEN ANALIZED PERSPECTIVE FROM PEOPLE WHOSE PEOPLE YOU TRUST (i'm not even saying critics or twitter here, but people who you kn... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:24, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: Deviation I love how you didn't even bother to defend yourself and at least claim me wrong, noooooo.... you went for forum dweller who always wants to be right. ee above creampuff. ... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:20, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_liffj8gIGe1qgnsnbo1_5 00.gif ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 23:19, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: rawlinson Go ask on the SFX forum deserves to be up there with MY FACEBOOK PAGE. It just does. ... More

Posted by matty_b at 23:19, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

I love how you didn't even bother to defend yourself and at least claim me wrong, noooooo.... you went for forum dweller who always wants to be right. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:19, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: Deviation I loved Tree of Life. But I also thought The Avengers was awesome and the shiznit. I?OH MY GOD SO PERPLEXED (btw, wonderful comebacks cynic, btw, I did not try to sell your own point at you, your point was that you're using twitter to form on what you are going to see just on people you don't know on twitter, we're calling that slightly stupid and we could use as much silly ways to offer a counter of similar if not more value, you starting calling people snobs, you sir,... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:18, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: Deviation I loved Tree of Life. But I also thought The Avengers was awesome and the shiznit. What am I? OH MY GOD SO PERPLEXED (btw, wonderful comebacks cynic, btw, I did not try to sell your own point at you, your point was that you're using twitter to form on what you are going to see just on people you don't know on twitter, we're calling that slightly stupid and we could use as much silly ways to offer a counter of similar if not more value, you starting calling people s... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:16, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

I loved Tree of Life. But I also thought The Avengers was awesome and the shiznit. What am I? OH MY GOD SO PERPLEXED (btw, wonderful comebacks cynic, btw, I did not try to sell your own point at you, your point was that you're using twitter to form on what you are going to see just on people you don't know on twitter, we're calling that slightly stupid and we could use as much silly ways to offer a counter of similar if not more value, you starting calling people snobs, you sir, are ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:13, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: rawlinson Go ask on the SFX forum deserves to be up there with MY FACEBOOK PAGE. It just does. have to admit, that's where I conceded. If only my Myspace page was still live! ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 23:13, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: MonsterCat L: theoriginalcynic L: adambatman82 L: theoriginalcynic Is this a discussion? I thought this was two people (who clearly need to get out more) trying to prove (and failing) their superiority. ecause resorting to personal digs and name-calling is sure sign of a man that's won a debate! #JossIsBoss t's often how I judge who won. You lost btw. his is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. I think Adam and... More

Posted by UTB at 23:12, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

Go ask on the SFX forum deserves to be up there with MY FACEBOOK PAGE. It just does. ... More

Posted by rawlinson at 23:09, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: theoriginalcynic L: adambatman82 L: theoriginalcynic Is this a discussion? I thought this was two people (who clearly need to get out more) trying to prove (and failing) their superiority. ecause resorting to personal digs and name-calling is sure sign of a man that's won a debate! #JossIsBoss t's often how I judge who won. You lost btw. his is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. I think Adam and Cynic are destined to ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 23:05, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: adambatman82 L: theoriginalcynic Is this a discussion? I thought this was two people (who clearly need to get out more) trying to prove (and failing) their superiority. ecause resorting to personal digs and name-calling is sure sign of a man that's won a debate! #JossIsBoss t's often how I judge who won. You lost btw. ... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:04, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: matty_b "I have a cape...OF IMMENSE POWER!" ad that in Bane's voice ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 23:04, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: MonsterCat L: UTB L: matty_b Of all the films to cause a forum meltdown, I really had Lincoln pegged as the least likely. Bravo, everyone. magine what would happen if Lincoln turned up in a Batman film... r what if Batman turned up in Lincoln? BEST MOVIE EVAH IS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN!!! "I have a cape...OF IMMENSE POWER!" ... More

Posted by matty_b at 23:02, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: Hood_Man We talking about the Lincoln movie with vampires, right? .... ... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 23:02, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

We talking about the Lincoln movie with vampires, right? ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 23:00, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Bone-biting weariness...

L: UTB L: matty_b Of all the films to cause a forum meltdown, I really had Lincoln pegged as the least likely. Bravo, everyone. magine what would happen if Lincoln turned up in a Batman film... r what if Batman turned up in Lincoln? BEST MOVIE EVAH IS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN!!! ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 23:00, 02 February 2013 | Report This Post


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