HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:91
Steven Speilberg is known for making his sweeping epics. Most of them broad sweeping and touching upon a huge time piece. “Lincoln” is his latest foray into the world of world shaking politics and riveting drama. The major revelation with “Lincoln” is how “un-Speilberg” like the film is. Instead of the broad brush that normally is in his hand he is surprisingly restrained, limiting himself to a single set period of time and focusing on the details. While Spielberg has made some fantastic drama’s he tends to suffer from trying to extrapolate too much from situations that are just not factual, and while “Lincoln” is a fantastic effort into the political realm there are a few times where Spielberg just can’t help filling in some of those pesky unknown situation with his own imagination.
It’s a time of great civil unrest. The Civil war has been going on for over 4 years and President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is growing weary in both mind and body under the pressure of holding the nation together from fracturing. Not only that, with the war drawing to a close and victory almost certain, at this point, he realizes that his failed 13th amendment to give the black slaves permanent freedom is hovering in the balance. If he does not get the amendment passed before the seceded states return to the union it will never get passed due to the increased volume of slave sympathetic states. As a result he has a month time period to get the amendment passed in a time of war when everyone is just begging for the war to end.
The problem is that the amendment is 20 votes shy of gaining the two thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), a radical abolitionist is trying to push the bill through on a racial equality platform, which our nation was not in unanimous agreement upon at the time, and as a result was compromising the entire bill itself by fracturing our nation’s representatives even more than they already were at this time. Utilizing every bit of legal and persuasive power that he can, Lincoln sends out lobbyists and representatives to try and sway the constituents to vote for human freedom, rather than their normal prejudices. Lincoln even resorts to going out door to door trying to bend the ears of his opponents he struggles uphill and with the ferocity of a man who realizes that he MUST not lose, or else freedom for those slaves will be lost for decades at the very least. Struggling, both politically and on the marital front, he pushes forward with one goal in mind; the abolition of the tyranny and oppression of another human life that had robbed our nation of its dignity and humanity for so many years.
Spielberg is an absolute master of emotion and here is no exception. Delicately balancing emotion and a riveting historical lesson with expert eases, he tugs your heart strings every which way he desires and paints the picture of one of our nation’s most important and revolutionary moments in history. A slow burning drama, “Lincoln” is not for those expecting a giant civil war battle. In fact it is much more a political drama or old fashioned political thriller more than anything else. At two and a half hours it is a movie that needs to be watched from beginning to end in one sitting instead of taking a break due to the intricacies of the political machinations as well as that fact that everything, from beginning to end, takes place in such a short amount of time.
The story itself has some flaws though. As Speilberg has a tendency of doing, a certain amount of fantasy is inserted into the film. While I can understand mild dramatic license being taken, such as the relationship between Lincoln and Mary Todd (Sally Fields), much of the political “back room” dealings have been created through extrapolation without any basis in historical fact. I hesitate to mention these out of respect for both major political parties, but being a political movie at its very core I must at least address them as objectively as I can. Being that Spielberg appears to be making a very sincere effort in creating a movie that takes the time period seriously these extrapolated scenes in which Lincoln is portrayed as a someone who is trying to consciously take egregious powers is disheartening, not as someone of a political party, but rather as someone who sees a bias being pushed in a manner that is masquerading as a form of truth, or at least historical weight behind it. Had the film gone more fictional it would have been a form of dramatic license, but with Spielberg doing a historical epic, it falls flat at times and pulls the film down from being truly epic.
The story is great, but not perfect and its flaws and biases shine through at times, however the main pull for this movie is really Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln” was not as much a film, but a stage for one of the performances of the decade. Daniel Day-Lewis lost himself so completely into the role of Lincoln, took on every historical characteristic of the famed man that we no longer saw or heard the actor, only the character. Never before in my LIFE have I seen such dedication to the craft. Day-Lewis became Lincoln so thoroughly, so completely that had someone not told me who he was, I would have never guessed it. A truly flawless performance that deserved every bit of critical praise it has received and then some. The acting overall was superb by all actors, but Daniel Day Lewis has truly distinguished himself as one of the finest actors of our generation, without doubt.
Rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language
Disney has blessed us with a truly stunning 2.40:1 AVC encode for “Lincoln”. Shot in Steven Spielberg’s beloved 35 mm film, the picture is truly breathtaking. With a fine layer of film grain it still just exudes detail. Up close shots are exceptional and the long shots are almost as beautiful, marred only by some occasional softness. The film has a very strong and intentional teal color grading which along with the overall dark scenes of the movie leads to a very very dark film. The black levels are very well done, showing fantastic shadow detail for the majority of the film. Unfortunately those same black levels give us a very minor case of black crush in some of the indoor scenes. Nothing too major, but a minor distraction to those videophiles. Colors are dusky and, as said before, rather blue and mixed with other pastel colors. Outdoor scenes show a vivid array of primaries including lush greens and reds of the Virginian country side.
Even more impeccable than the video is the fantastic 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio track. Being a dramatic film the majority of the film is locked in the front stage with the vocals. However, deceiving as that may seem, the film is ripe with surround usage as well. Subtle sounds are heard shifting positions across the entire sound stage, from the rustling of curtains to the creaking of the white house doors I never once felt as if the back soundstage was being shunned. What amazed me the most was the pinpoint accuracy of the sounds. Auditory detail was the highest I’ve heard in a very long time. Subtle sounds that are an everyday occurrence in our lives completely surrounded the user, completely and total replicating an extremely realistic sonic experience. LFE was smooth and tight, albeit subdued for a large portion of the film. Never coming into play except where needed, such as the clomping of horse’s feet and the thunder of a carriage along the pathway. Dialogue was absolutely sublime. Completely balanced with the rest of the effects it was crystal clear and audible along all seating areas. A track doesn't need to be thunderous and aggressive to be perfect and “Lincoln” is a shining example of how subtlety can shine as much more explosive tracks.
• The Journey to "Lincoln"
• A Historic Tapestry: Richmond, Virginia
• In the Company of Character
• Crafting the Past
• Living with Lincoln
• In Lincoln's Footsteps
“Lincoln” may not have been the perfect political drama that it set out to be, but it has stood head and shoulders over many other self-indulgent political forays in the film world by taking a fairly bi-partisan look at the situation. Straying away from cynicism and political pandering Spielberg does an admirable job of trying to portray the flaws and triumphs of both sides in our struggle for freedom, lending a very human feeling to the film. Along with Daniel Day-Lewis’ fantastic performance and great technical specs I highly recommend this film to be watched, if not owned by all those who enjoy a good slow burning drama.
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Fields, James Sapder, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Tony Kushner
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 150 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 26th, 2013
Buy Lincoln Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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