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.
During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.
In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.
In May 1940, the fate of Western Europe hangs on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on knowing that it could mean a humiliating defeat for Britain and its empire.
Kristin Scott Thomas
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>
Early in the movie there is a military band playing. There is a clarinetist who's using a modern Boehm-fingering clarinet. Until the 1930s or so clarinets were made with the Albert fingering keys. The curved register key is the Albert giveaway, which is not seen in the band's clarinet. 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 »
A story about Abraham Lincoln's 13th Amendment fight could be a snoozer in the hands of anyone else except director Steven Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Together they bring alive the passage of one of the nineteenth century's greatest pieces of legislation, freeing slaves for all time.
While the Civil War was coming to a close after 4 bloody years in 1865, Lincoln politicked for the amendment's passage, knowing full well that if peace were obtained, the impetus for the amendment would vanish. So politics and war are inextricably tied together, and arguably the most noble American president bartered and lied his way to passage.
Spielberg makes clear that sequestering the South's negotiating team until passage was crucial, if not impeachable. The drama as votes are bought or cajoled is an apt companion to the catastrophic war that cost over a half million lives. Less rewarding as drama is Lincoln's relationship with his wife, Mary (Sally Field), whose depression over the loss of her first child stalks here her lifetime and makes for some less than sweet moments on screen.
But this film belongs to Lincoln, who, as memorably portrayed by Day-Lewis, is a leader of strong will peppered by a sense of humor and a relentless penchant for tales: The story of George Washington's portrait in a British water closet is a hoot. Tommy Lee Jones' Thaddeus Stevens is essential Jones: gruff, blunt, ugly, and charismatic with a dollop of kindness no better exemplified than in his final scene in his bedroom.
Although this is occasionally a heavy-handed history lesson, it is my preferred way to learn. I know now what the 13th Amendment is, and I am aware in our own time of the severity of politics-- that great leaders must also be great politicians, with all the pejorative connotations our recent presidential election can conjure. Steven Spielberg brilliantly shows us that the process can be for the people and by the people and may not perish.
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