Lincoln the movie

Brief Movie Review of Lincoln

By Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Colour, 150 minutes

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Produced by Steven Spielberg & Kathleen Kennedy

Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln

Based on Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

For this Canadian reviewer, Lincoln was full of surprises. I was surprised and disappointed that the movie was not as comprehensive as I had wished for and expected—it only covers approximately the last four months of President Lincoln’s life, late 1864, after he was re-elected up to his tragic death by assassination in early 1865. I was hoping for a more complete biographical presentation of Lincoln’s life than this.

Another aspect of the movie that surprised me in a more positive way is the lack of glamorizing civil war violence in the movie, which is a trademark of way too many Hollywood movies—for that I commend Spielberg.

The movie consists mainly of Lincoln meeting with various other politicians; in his tireless endeavour to pass the 13th amendment, banning slavery before the civil war ended and the Confederacy states rejoined the union; which would likely prevent any possibility of passing the amendment if the latter occurred first.

What surprised me with Lincoln’s political agenda was his willingness to wheel and deal with his political adversaries by political patronage—which, at best, was ethically problematic and misleading, and, at worst, illegal and even corrupt. Although at times Lincoln struggles in a genuine way ethically over such political tactics in the movie as well as with the tragic loss of life of the lingering civil war—nonetheless the behind the scenes political manoeuvring demythologizes this reviewer’s image of the 16th president of the U.S. as “honest Abe.”

One of the highlights for this reviewer was the stellar acting of Daniel Day-Lewis; who ironically is not an American, but holds citizenship in England and Ireland. Day-Lewis is a very convincing Abraham Lincoln. He is able to, in his down-to-earth, folksy style; regale his audiences with story, parable, and witty humour in such a fashion that gains the love and respect of everyone. Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln the ordinary, accessible, universal human being; as well as Lincoln the lonely, mysterious political genius.

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