Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln Movie Poster

Directed by Steven Spielberg

You have probably read tons of reviews on Lincoln by now and you may have even watched it several times already. Well, I had my first watch yesterday evening, and I have to say: for someone living outside the United States, I think that Lincoln is an excellent movie with some parts difficult to understand. Let me elaborate.

Lincoln is not a documentary. Surely, it belongs to the Spielberg collection of movies, so before going to the theatres you should know what to expect: either a great movie or a disappointment. With Spielberg there simply isn’t a middle way out, but it will most likely be one of those legendary, most-talked about productions of the year. Thereby one or two reviews might add little notion to the already high standards of this movie. Above all, criticism might look (very) wrong and is therefore a controversial part to start writing about.

How about the good things first? President Lincoln has for starters been portrayed as a powerful, yet sympathetic person. Daniel Day-Lewis alone has won two Academy Awards. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he won his third, a record, for playing Lincoln in the movie. Other performances, Sally Field, David Strathairn and Tommy Lee Jones standing out, are just superbly directed by Spielberg who has proven that he is worth his status once again. The rest of the cast, even the insignificant soldiers fighting till death, have performed outstandingly. They have all made the setting look very real, and that’s something to cherish, because Lincoln is historically accurate in many of its scenes.

That brings me to a certain downside in the movie: how historically accurate is Lincoln truly? From the point of view of the audience, the short answer would be very. However, there are some points to consider. As critic Kate Masur points out in her New York Times review of the movie, many black characters have received a real passive rol (Masur discusses this passivity of black characters in her article). Also, Harold Holzer emphasizes on various, what he calls, ‘bloopers’ in the movie. It begs the question though to what extent these errors or interpretations of history are relevant to the overall effect of the end product, namely the movie itself? Not much if you ask me. Lincoln stays on top of history, even though there are quite a few ‘bloopers’, and in that effort does not spoil the overall quality of the movie.

Then there is the cinematography. Supported by a captivating storyline, I felt that Lincoln himself was literally fighting with the House to pass his amendment. As history tells us, he finally succeeded, but how is another question and another subplot which has been told splendidly. Tony Kushner, the screenwriter, has integrated this story in the main storyline in such a way that it makes you feel positive towards what happens. In other words: Lincoln manages to play with your own ethical values of what’s right and wrong.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln.

Excellent movies are usually subject to great debate as there is no definite consensus among the audience and critics. In other words: it depends on who’s watching as whether one will like it or hate it (or be bored). It is a shame that many people who aren’t familiar with American history find it so difficult to follow the nuances outlined in the story. Don’t get me wrong: the storytelling is just fine.  However Lincoln stays much underappreciated with a lot of non-American citizens. That’s when director Spielberg jumps in. Lincoln draws a lot of parallels to the here and now and makes it easy to follow for everyone, because somehow we can all relate to the story even if we don’t understand its essentials. President Lincoln for instance appears to be a really funny gal.

I think it’s safe enough to say that Lincoln is Oscar worthy. The way the last months of President Lincoln’s life have been portrayed is a cataclysmic reaction to our very minds. Phenomenal acting and a story told exceptionally well: Lincoln deserves to be seen more than just once.


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