Lincoln Review

The Plot:

Steven Spielberg’s long awaited biopic of iconic American President Abraham Lincoln focuses on the last few months of his life as he attempts to pass the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives and abolish slavery forever. However this triumphant historical moment is set against the end of the brutally destructive American civil war and his own personal sacrifices.

The Good:

With a stellar cast including Academy Award nominees Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Fields and Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln was always destined to be something special. With Steven Spielberg at the helm and Tony Kushner drafting the screenplay, this dialogue heavy insight into one of the most riveting moments of American history is not to be missed.

Abraham Lincoln had a rare almost mythical quality which has endured throughout the ages as an emblem of the best of the American dream and the ideals it represents. But the real triumph of Spielberg’s latest masterpiece is that it humanises such a statuesque historical figure, making him finally a real living and breathing man. Spielberg expertly delivers a Lincoln who is simultaneously both the inspiring father of a nation and an ordinary family man.

This film simply couldn’t have been made without Daniel Day-Lewis. He remains the ultimate method actor, physically and emotionally transforming himself into Honest Abe. It’s a brilliant nuanced performance that is instantly recognisable and truthful; whilst skilfully avoiding any of the overall familiar stereotypes associated with more crude Lincoln caricatures. With a perfectly intoned voice, shuffling walk and passive nature; you cannot fault Day-Lewis’s characterization and awards a-plenty should be placed firmly in his hands.

Tommy Lee Jones is equally magnificent as radical pro-abolition supporter Thaddeus Stephens. His quick tongued, imposing authority guides us through the House of Representative scenes mesmerizingly when Day Lewis is not present. The surprising humour within the film falls mainly on Jones capable shoulders. His quick quips instantly make you chuckle with an effortless ease that gives the film a welcomed light relief. This Texan actor is back to his best in this film and like Day-Lewis picks his key moments to truly shine and provide award worthy performances throughout.

Rounding out the rest of the cast, there are no performances big or small that fall through the cracks. Every character is carefully considered and acted with dedication and conviction, most notably through David Strathairn, James Spader and Hal Holbrook.

The Bad:

Taking a step back from glossy visuals, Spielberg and Kushner have opted for a narrative heavy theatrical style which may prove slightly off-putting for some audiences. A demanding 150minute runtime is packed with in depth information about the intricacies of the American legislative process and a dizzying array of characters.

The film’s trailers may have tended to create a potentially misleading impression that Lincoln is a sweeping civil war epic full of rousing battles on a grand scale. However in truth the film is far more compact and intimate as a simple character drama. The film has sharp and quick moving dialogue that is engaging and clever, although admittedly a lot to take in on a single viewing. But really that’s just an excuse to watch Lincoln repeatedly.

The Ugly Truth:

Lincoln is exciting and heart-warming in spite of its slow pacing, representing a dazzling return to form for one of the greatest directors of all time. Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a simply astonishing performance to bring the spirit of one of the most recognizable and significant figures in world history back to life on the big screen. A stellar supporting cast and expert direction from Steven Spielberg make Lincoln must see magnificence.

Red Carpet interviews below with Steven Spielberg, Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis at the Dublin charity premiere:

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