Review: Lincoln

Poster for 2013 historical drama film Lincoln

Genre: Historical, Drama
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 25th January 2013
Runtime: 150 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Tony Kushner
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Synopsis: As the Civil War rages, the US president is forced to decide between ending the fighting and the amendment to abolish slavery.




Spielberg has managed to do it again. For what seems like the millionth time, he is in amongst the Oscar nominations for Best Director, at the expense of people who probably deserve it more. That said, Lincoln is a very solid historical drama film that benefits from an utterly spell-binding central performance. It’s certainly a better piece of work than the puddle of sentimentality that War Horse was.

Of course, it’s impossible to review Lincoln without focusing heavily on the incredible work done by Daniel Day-Lewis in his award snaffling turn as the titular president. When the Best Actor award at the 2013 Oscars goes on his mantlepiece next to his gongs for My Left Foot (1990) and There Will Be Blood (2008), it will be richly deserved. Day-Lewis is remarkable in every scene of Lincoln, bravely portraying one of America’s most loved historical figures as a slightly irritating, high-pitched old man.

He is aided by Tony Kushner’s strong script that balances rousing monologues and motivational speeches with a collection of great quips. This ensures that Lincoln always gets the balance right between having a story to tell and being entertaining whilst telling it. John Williams’ score is initially another star of the film, but there are moments when it is so intrusive that it feels like a tuneful slap in the face.

The supporting cast are uniformly great. Tommy Lee Jones’ pro-abolition Congressman is the film’s most interesting character and Sally Field is given very little to do, but manages to shine when she does appear. Disappointingly, Lincoln woefully underuses Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Abe’s son. Their complex father-son relationship creates some of the film’s most interesting scenes, but is sidelined in favour of the procedural politics that dominates the film.

Acting aside, Lincoln is a remarkable achievement in how it manages to take the glacial progression of politics and make it very interesting. It does sag quite heavily at times and without Daniel Day-Lewis, it might have become infested with boring Spielbergian sentimentality, but for the most part, it’s thoroughly engaging. The final voting scenes are packed with tension, even though the outcome is so well-known.

Lincoln is Spielberg’s best work in years and, although it probably doesn’t deserve to win Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, it’s difficult to bet against.


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