As the American Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
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In 1865, as the American Civil War winds inexorably toward conclusion, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln endeavors to achieve passage of the landmark constitutional amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States. However, his task is a race against time, for peace may come at any time, and if it comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it can become law. Lincoln must, by almost any means possible, obtain enough votes from a recalcitrant Congress before peace arrives and it is too late. Yet the president is torn, as an early peace would save thousands of lives. As the nation confronts its conscience over the freedom of its entire population, Lincoln faces his own crisis of conscience -- end slavery or end the war.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The U.S. Capitol dome is shown as being gray in color, when, in fact, it has always been completely white since its completion in 1863. See more »
Private Harold Green:
[speaking to Lincoln on the battlefield]
Some of us was in the Second Kansas Colored. We fought the Rebs at Jenkins' Ferry last April just after they killed every Negro soldier they captured at Poison Springs. So at Jenkins' Ferry, we decided warn't takin' no Reb prisoners. And we didn't leave a one of 'em alive. The ones of us that didn't die that day, we joined up with the 116th US Colored, sir, from Camp Nelson, Kentucky.
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No opening credits except for the main title. See more »
For international releases, an additional prologue about the Civil War was added prior to the start of the film. It mostly shows archive photos with the prologue text included in it. This was decided by the studio's marketing department in its research which realized that while many non-American audiences know of the titular character, most of them are not familiar with the war itself. See more »
Moving and important...with a mind-blowing performance by Day-Lewis
A highly polished, restrained, important movie.
That doesn't make this an exciting movie. The acting is terrific, and filming excellent (including a color saturation pulled back to give it an old look without seeming affected). It is clearly expert in the way we expect from Steven Spielberg above perhaps anyone, at least in the mainstream conventional sense.
But there are two things that make this movie a must see. One is the content. It's about one of the two or three most important things ever to happen in this country--the fight to end slavery during the Civil War. This is such powerful stuff it will make you weep. (If it doesn't, you'll have to ask why.) It's laid out as clearly and emphatically as possible while still keeping accurate.
The second thing is simply the overwhelming performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. It is so good you forget it's a performance (unlike, for example, his intensity in "There Will Be Blood" which stood out as a work of acting above the movie). Here he is so woven into the fabric of things he is indistinguishable from the historic truth, somehow. It's really the magic of the transparency of movie-making of this kind. Amazing performance.
It seems sacrilege to say this but the movie isn't perfect. Because of its material--getting the anti-slavery amendment through Congress--it involves a lot of talk, and a lot of people that you have to keep track of. I think Spielberg did this as good as it could be done, so no criticism there, but it does mean a lack of physical and even emotional drama through much of the film. I don't mean it's dull, just that it's conversational. I also found shreds of Spielberg's Frank Capra quality of making the movies--and his subjects--a little simplified. He ties up loose ends. He makes it all a fine package, very fine. Maybe too fine for what I would call high art. At times.
I think we'll have an easier time judging it in six months, or six years. Also the subject matter makes it almost unassailable, since clearly most of us are all for the passing of any anti-slavery legislation.
See this for all the reasons you have heard. Don't miss it. Maybe down a coffee before you go, but see it no matter what. As I say, it's important. It reminds you of greatness, and that's not something to miss.
UPDATE over one year later: I see that I accepted a lot of decisions by the writer and director as their prerogative, like focussing on one issue and narrowing to a short period of time. I had no bones with the scope of the movie. But in retrospect I see how the limitations of time and scope and background also create a sense of mis-information. That is, if you want a bigger picture of Lincoln, this movie is not quite right. Its aggrandizement is also not unavoidable, like the somewhat insipid (and yet moving) recital of the Gettysburg Address at the beginning by soldiers. Overall, though, I stick to my main thought--see it, and soak up what you can, without expecting perfection. Yes, see it for what it is, nothing less.
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