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Here is a caveat to anyone planning to watch this film. The film is not a biopic on the entire life of Abraham Lincoln or about the Civil War. It is about the passing of a bill, specifically the 13th amendment which contained the abolition of slavery. It is about the political process. People talking about it, for it and against it. For 2 and a half hours. Describing this film as talky or lacking in entertainment is completely missing the point.
I fell head over heels in love with Lincoln but why did I start the review telling you what the film is not instead of what it is? Well, that's because during the first hour of Lincoln, I found myself getting bored. Not knowing much about Lincoln's life could be the reason. Soon, I saw a rare U-turn take place as I was utterly and irretrievably compelled. I became a part of the procedure and the character of Abraham Lincoln took shape. I was extremely interested in each detail of the process, each dialogue, each nuance. When I said I was bored, it was not due to the film's lack of substance but the appalling lack of awareness on my part. We have become so accustomed to watching a certain kind of movie, be it biopics, war films or period films, that I'm ashamed to admit I wasn't watching it the way it was meant to be seen. Blame it on the kind of films Spielberg has made before or our inherent need of typical entertainment.
This could also be due to the way we perceive the word: politics, the film version of it. People framing people, people getting people killed is not politics, it's gangsterism. Sure you may say politics has become a home ground for organized crime and manipulation but politics in its very essence is a bunch of people talking. Making speeches and taking speeches is politics. What it takes to get a bill passed is politics. That is how history is made. Not who assassinated whom. Here is a film bold enough to be *about* politics. While watching the film, I couldn't help but think of the times we live in. What a man like Lincoln would have done if was a politician in any nation today. In our country for example, how we are in desperate in need of a man in power who makes changes. But what we really need is a man in power who *wants* change.
When you take it at face value, it is surprising that Spielberg made a film like this one. Just take a look at one of the long shots in the film or his use of close ups. It isn't the way he usually frames his scenes and hence the involvement of the audience is different. But then you look closer at the characters and there is no surprise as to why Spielberg made this film. It is most definitely one his most balanced works. There are those typical Spielbergian moments which many critics call sentimental along with ones where the film is almost brutal in its cold deliverance of political maneuvers. This mix creates a film which I would call lyrical and majestic.
Daniel Day Lewis is every actor's worst nightmare, by which I mean he is one of the greatest actors ever. Many actors have been crowned as method actors and are lauded for â€œbecomingâ€ the character. It isn't just that Day-Lewis embodies personas but he has also captures their enigma. Take a look at how he has modulated his voice here. It is unrecognizable during certain scenes. If you've ever noticed, we speak certain words in a certain tone of voice every single time we speak them. I happened to have noticed the way he speaks the word â€œnowâ€ in the film, there is a similar ring to it each time he speaks it. How many actors go to such lengths these days? Calling this a performance seems wrong. This is a masterwork in itself.
There are too many noteworthy people involved in this film for me to write about each of them but I will mention Tony Kushner who has penned the script which is a compete triumph! The beginning and ending of the film with the Gettysburg address, coming full circle. Side-stepping major â€œmovie momentsâ€ most notably the tragic death of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, there is a typical movie ending given to us, but the film carries on. There is a dialogue in the film where Lincoln says â€œPreacher said I could write shorter sermons but once I start I get too lazy to stop.â€ I'm glad this film doesn't stop and goes on to give us the good stuff. This is what great filmmaking is all about. For my lack of historical knowledge I couldn't resist but read up on the history surrounding the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. I read the script and I'm excited to watch the film again. I don't remember the last time I wanted to dig into each aspect of a film and the way it was made. I have no shred of doubt that, in the years to come, Lincoln will be looked at as a landmark film, a masterpiece.