Flapperdoodle's Gaming Blog Ep. 126: Lincoln Review
Lincoln is a wonderful biopic on my favorite president. It takes what everyone already knows about Abraham Lincoln, and expands it to teach us even more about his life. Spielberg does a great job of creating 1865 on the big screen, as all of the cinematography is gorgeous. The makeup and costumes all look accurate, and various sets truly feel like they belong in this time period. The plot in the movie handles multiple subplots with ease, and each one is enticing and gets the amount of screen time it deserves. Spielberg really gets creative with what areas of the story he focuses on as well. The acting is top notch, with this ENTIRE ensemble being one of the best I've seen throughout the entire year, with major props to Daniel Day Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and David Spader. But the star here is the script, which is so smart and witty that you can't help but enjoy yourself. If you can appreciate a good script and a wonderful cast, Lincoln is a perfect way to spend an afternoon at the movies.
Oh boy… where have I been?
Before I start this review, let me just say, yes. I haven't posted a blog in a very long while. There's a reason for this, and that is because I had a crap ton of schoolwork to do. Friday was the last day before Winter Break, a wonderful week and a half where I have no schoolwork and a ton of free time to write, edit, and have a lot of fun. So, with this free time ahead of me, I am prepared to write and post a lot of blogs I've been keeping in my vaults. This includes an album review I've been promising, some episodes of The Perfect Platformer, the first blog on my four part Games of the Year list, my experiences with Symphony of the Goddesses, and even some other stuff I've been keeping secret. Plenty of reviews, lists, and fun is to be had! I'll try to arrange a 7 for 7 week sometime in the near future, quite possibly a few blogs after this one, but for now… let's get a review started. And this review is one I have been waiting to do for quite a while.
When I saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a few months ago, I was shocked at how decent the film truly was. It had a good cast, some interesting action, a decent plot, and a pretty well handled plot. For something so silly sounding, it actually could've been taken seriously. But I knew deep down the second Lincoln movie coming out this year would be… to put it delicately, a hell of a lot better. Just looking at the poster, you could tell one was going to be much more respectable than the other. You have Steven Spielberg, a master filmmaker, at the helm, handling a true biopic about the last few weeks of Lincoln's life. Not only that, but the movie specifies on the specific process of passing the 13th Amendment, otherwise known as when Lincoln abolished slavery. Right there, you have something that is interesting to a large amount of audiences, and you have a well-known topic as well. You have a cast that is remarkable in every which way. From Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones. All of these actors are well known to many people, both old and young. All of these actors have been in movies that a ton of people have seen, whether they be more recent ("The Dark Knight Rises" for Levitt, and "Men In Black 3" for Jones) or slightly older yet still classic films ("There Will Be Blood" for Lewis, and "Forrest Gump" for Field). So, there's that, but the real big thing that I see grabbing people for this movie is it's "Oscar" vibe. You can tell Spielberg is aiming for some awards here, whether it be a near obvious "Best Actor" win for Lewis, or a "Best Screenplay" win for Tony Kushner. Lincoln has been nominated for 7 Golden Globes, which include those two, and it's been keeping steady at the box office for many weeks due to this buzz. Lincoln is slated for overall success in the upcoming weeks. But does this mean it should be given the time of day… even if that answer seems so obvious?
It is January 1865. Abraham Lincoln (played by Daniel Day Lewis) is dealing with some massive struggle as president of the United States of America during the Civil War. He passed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which has freed slaves to go to war, but he is continuously feeling it is not enough for him. As an abolitionist, he feels the only way to truly free them is for an amendment to be made completely banning slavery. The Senate is open to the amendment, but the House of Representatives is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Even if all Republicans rally together to put all of their votes in, they would still need Democratic support. To do just this, Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Seward (played by David Strathairn) are forced to attempt to bribe many Dems with jobs in government with the help of secretive operatives, including the bumbling W. N. Bilbo (played by James Spader). Unfortunately, the amendment may be in danger, as a peace treaty is being sent to the Confederates via Francis Preston Blair (played by Hal Holbrook), which could lose Lincoln much of his Republican support. In the House, democrats such as Fernando Wood (played be Lee Pace) debate strongly against the amendment, but continued supporters such as Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones) are not close to backing down. And while all of this is going on, Lincoln has to keep family in a watchful eye. His wife, Mary Todd (played by Sally Field), has still not forgiven herself over the tragic loss of their first son. His oldest son, Robert (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a passion for being in the army, but his mother will not allow it. She refuses to let him possibly be killed. In the end, Lincoln must make decisions that will not only affect his allies, family, and friends, but quite possibly the entire nation as a whole.
I have been trying to see this movies for weeks. Ever since it came out, I have been desperately waiting for me to find time to see the movie. It looked like one of the best, and I love anything that has Lincoln's name on it, him being my personal favorite president. And let me assure you, Lincoln is a movie not to be missed.
Even though this film is about the Civil War, there aren't many war segments in the film. There's some shots of battlefields, but there's only one or two shots of actual war going on. This film is a lot about talking… a lot about talking. Lincoln obviously knew a lot of people and had to have a lot of meetings and such to discuss important things such as the amendment and the Civil War. Let's not forget the House of Representatives is a very talkative place. So, if you are somebody who needs something big going on to keep you occupied, this movie is most likely not going to help you all too much. There are many moments where it's just Lincoln talking to people about things to happen in the movie. It most likely will be seen as slow to many people. And at times, the pace slows down considerably. But did I find this a bad thing? Absolutely not. As somebody who can truly admire a smart and well-written screenplay, I had a ball with this film. The dialogue heavy segments in this film are so well executed and so interesting to watch, that I was completely invested in nearly every line. Sure, there is language that some people may not clearly understand, but I understand most of it quite clearly. If you can understand what this script is saying, you are going to love this movie. Some of the lines in this movie are so smart and so well thought out, not to mention brilliant said by the cast. It is, at times, fun to see these characters bounce off of each other and discuss things. You can tell Spielberg and Kushner was putting his all into making sure this film sounded like 1865. There are some times in the film where Lincoln goes off on a tangent with a random story to tell, and you would not believe how much of Lincoln it truly sounds like. The script is easily the best part of the movie, considering the movie has to rely on it, and it succeeds in keeping the movie entertaining and fully realized.
But what would a script be without actors to say the lines? Well, Lincoln doesn't need to answer this question, because the cast is so perfectly chosen and acted. Daniel Day Lewis has already been nominated for a Golden Globe, and my word does he deserve all the awards he can get for this performance. Lewis owns this role with such class and subtlety, and you can tell he's having a lot of fun with the job of playing one of America's most beloved presidents. He actually masters Lincoln physically as well. The way he says his line, the makeup he has one, the motions and the tone he has, just everything about his performance screams Lincoln! This is exactly how I'd imagine Lincoln would be. It might possibly be my favorite portrayal of Lincoln to date. It's that good. As for the rest of the cast, they all shine. One of the most notable performances in the film is Tommy Lee Jones. I'm glad he has been nominated for "Best Supporting Actor", because he truly deserves it. Tommy Lee Jones has so many wonderful lines, and he says every line with emotion, saying suave and witty. These are my favorite characters in film: characters that are smart and sarcastic, yet still smart and emotional when need be. I loved watching him, and I consider this one of his best roles… ever. Another notable performance is David Spader as W. N. Bilbo. You may not think this movie is too funny, but the movie has a lot more comic relief than you'd think. And for this said comic relief, you can thank David Spader. In a political film, when you play a bumbling idiot, it needs to handled with care. You don't want to overshadow the true plot, but you want to still be integrated. Spader does a fantastic job of staying funny, while also being funny in ways of the plot. Also, give Spielberg credit for not giving him too much screen time, because if he did get too much, it may become overbearing.
But I'm not done with the cast. Far from it actually. Sally Field was tasked with playing a very complex role: Mary Todd Lincoln. Not many people know this, but Lincoln actually lost two sons due to fatal illnesses. In real life, Mary Todd Lincoln was deeply affected by this, and the movie spotlights this. Sally Field definitely gets extremely dramatic in the role of Mary Todd with the loss of her children and the drama between her and her oldest son Robert, or Levitt's character. This true guilt is handled well, and you can tell Sally Field does her absolute best to not sound preachy or annoying depressed. There is real emotion in her voice and there is true sadness to her expression. It's all real, and it's all intense. David Strathairn was also very good. I sadly don't recognize him from any past performances, but he definitely does do a good job as one of Lincoln's right hand men. He has elegance, yet also does good when he needs to be stern. Joseph Gordon-Levitt knocks it out of the park, as usual. There is one scene where I felt he truly gave a strong performance. When you see the movie, you'll known exactly which one. Lee Pace doesn't get too much screen time, but I enjoyed the obnoxiousness of his character a lot. It becomes very hilarious towards the end of the movie. Also, this is a small nitpick, but I feel Jared Harris (who played General Ulysses S. Grant) deserved a little bit more screen time. He did a fantastic job when he was on screen, and he also looked the part to such a tee. I felt he was sidelined a bit, but I understood why. As for everyone else not mentioned, they all do wonderful. Even if an actor gets 3 - 4 minutes of screen time, the actor still gives their absolute all for those few minutes. There isn't a single weak link in the bunch, quite honestly. It's a near perfect ensemble cast.
As for other elements in the film, they take a small back seat, but yet are still very well done. I think it was a fantastic decision to let the movie have many multiple subplots. The movie, while focused on it, isn't just about passing the Thirteenth Amendment. There's times where they focus on Lincoln's family troubles, with Mary Todd refusing to let Robert join the war, even though it's his aspiration. Sometimes the movie shifts gears to the confederacy and how they are handling things on their side. Other times, the movie discusses war and how they hope it will end. The movie never elongates a certain plot thread either. They all get their equal share, or rather, the amount of time they deserve. The cinematography was also very good. Lots of the rooms they were in felt very authentic to the time period they were in. Lots of fancy furniture and decals and paintings and what not. Let's not forget about the battlefield scenes. There are moments where the loss of war kick you in the face, and this is where you truly see the location scouting shine. There's lots of vast fields, which show the true scope of the Civil War in general. Also, I mentioned the makeup before with Lincoln, and I feel it deserves mentioning that it is truly remarkable. Lincoln, legitimately, looks exactly like Abraham Lincoln. Props to the makeup guys for a remarkable job. Everyone else looks like they are living in 1865, with all of the wigs and the fancy wears. You just get so invested in this movie, and the production value truly does help with this. I definitely got immersed, not only in the movie, but in the world Spielberg created.
Sadly, this movie was doing so well, and then the last five minutes of the movie happened. Now, you may think it's a little bit harsh to fault the movie when there was only only so little left. But unfortunately, the movie more than just misses the mark on the ending, it truly ruins it. I'm sure you can all tell what the ending is if you know anything about the history of America and Lincoln, but I still won't spoil it… cause I'm just that nice of a guy. I will say that something… "shocking" happens at the end, and it's a big deal. Anyway, as I was saying, there are quite a few problems with the end. For one, the ending is extremely abrupt. The film gives itself no time to truly show any long lasting effects of the situation at hand. It just happens, and then the movie ends on a very dull closer. You need to flesh it out a bit. Don't go overboard, but show some effects. The movie doesn't do this at all, and adds the happening at the end simply because it was a major historical event. Second, it's not so subtle about this happening either. You can tell they only added it because it was a major part of Lincoln's life. You didn't feel much of the emotion, because the movie ended so quickly afterwards. And lastly, and this is the most important, It just left a poor taste in my mouth, and not because of what you think. But there's one more flaw, and this is the most important flaw. I honestly felt like the movie didn't need to add this big happening at the end of the movie in the first place, because it was unnecessary to the plot. If it was cut, the movie would've been near perfect. The movie didn't need this plot point. It maybe could've referenced it a little bit, but it didn't need to full on show it. The movie never was meant to focus on this moment, and they added it, as I said, because everybody knows it happened. When the movie about vampire hunting hints at this moment a bit more subtly than you… you have some problems.
But… poor ending aside, Lincoln is a fantastic film. Spielberg just knows how to make a movie feel like it should, and this is no exception. From the moment this movie began, I could tell it was going to be something interesting. The movie takes Lincoln's last few months, and does a lot to make it even more interesting than I originally thought it was. His family troubles, his stressful decisions, and his efforts on passing this amendment are well executed in the movie, with each scene being handled beautifully and precisely. The cast is one of the best overall ensembles of the year, and not only because the main cast is wonderful, but everyone in the movie is on their A-game. Even the ones who get a few minutes of screen time are doing their jobs wonderfully. The camerawork is simple, yet refined, and the cinematography is beautiful and accurate to the actual time period. The makeup and costumes are great, and once again, I just gotta hand it to Lincoln's makeup person. SO. GOOD. But Lincoln's shining star is its script, which is so well-written and so awesome to see brought to life, that it can't be fully given justice with words. It's witty, it's smart, it sounds real, and it is one of the year's best. Everything in this movie just works together so well to create a wonderful flick, and if you like any of the things I've discussed in this review, Lincoln is worth full ticket price. I haven't seen a movie yet that has done so much justice to my favorite president more than this film. If it wasn't for the poor ending, this movie would be on my top five, but it sadly has to most likely stay in the top 10. My final grade for Lincoln is a:
I highly recommend seeing this film with anybody you can. It's slow, sure, but it has to be in order for all of the script's brilliance to shine. What a ride.
Now, as I am posting this on Christmas, I do want to wish you all a very merry Christmas. Also, happy holidays to all of my Jewish and Muslim friends out there. May your holidays be as splendid as mine are. I also wanna take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been reading my blogs and supporting me. I know I've been a bit too dormant on the blogs front throughout the last month, but believe me, I am trying my hardest to make up for that. Expect a ton more stuff from me as my Winter Break continues. Thanks to all of you who read my stuff. I appreciate it always through thick and thin.
I hope all of you celebrating have a Merry Christmas, and I hope everyone has a happy holidays. See you on the flip side!
- Larry :)
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