Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Jay

FILM: Lincoln

Recommended Posts

Lincoln is an interesting film. It's not a biopic about his life, it is not a character study, it’s not an epic production with a huge scope.

Other than the strange ending in the film, it's a story that can be both simple and very complicated that takes place in the last few week of January of 1865. The United States of America have been in a civil war for the past 4 years; many southern states have seceded from the union and formed a Confederacy. The southern economy at the time relied on the slave labor of african slaves, who were not treated as people but as property and could be bought and sold. The Emancipation Proclamation order by President Abraham Lincoln 2 years prior has made any slaves from the Confederate states free, but now a proposed 13th amendment to the Constitution would make owning slaves illegal forever. The amendment had passed Senate approval the year before, and the film leads up to January 31st, 1865, when the House of Representatives will vote to pass it or not, the last step needed to enact it.

Lincoln and his cabinet assume all the Republican Representatives will vote for it, and they determine that 20 democratic votes will be enough to get it to pass. The movie alternates between scenes of various associates visiting various democrats trying to sway their vote, while also giving insight into the life of Lincoln and his family and life in the White House at the time. Lincoln and his wife Mary have already lost two children, with the memory of their recently deceased second son Willie still haunting them both deeply, especially Mary. Mary cannot stand to lose another son, so when their oldest son Bob comes home from college in Boston talking about how he wants to enlist and fight for his country, this creates tension in the household and further motivation for Lincoln to end the civil war as soon as possible.

The scenes of Lincoln with his family are usually hard to watch, with Lincoln failing to connect with Bob at all, and Mary going through various stages of grief, stubbornness, and . It is Tad, the Lincoln’s youngest son that Lincoln gets along with best. It is clear that Lincoln wants to make sure Tad gets the attention he needs while he is still a young boy and that Lincoln has high hopes for him. Bob’s character is underwritten and it felt like there could have been scenes dropped to the cutting room floor that would help flesh out his character and make the few scenes he had have more impact.

The scenes involving various associates of Lincoln and his cabinet trying to sway Democratic Representatives into voting for the bill varied from funny and charming to kind of unsettling, as sometimes the “good guys” seemed to cross the line to ensure the vote. Some of these scenes were also redundant and more scenes showing the brutality of the war would really have helped raise the stakes and make the tough decision LIncoln must make between doing whatever it takes to ensure the amendment passes, and potentially ending the war when a delegation from the confederacy arrives to talk peace. Lincoln is told more than once that the amendment passes will ensure the war will rage on for an untold period of time longer, while canceling the amendment will lead to the Confederacy stopping the fight and being willing to rejoin the union. The tension in the film revolves around if Lincoln will chose one path or the other, or find a way to do both.

What worked in the film:

-The set & costume design, Its quite remarkable how well the film transports you to 1865, especially in light of the recent thread we had about how Spielberg themes had fallen into a routine in their look. This one's different, you are totally submersed.

- The cinematography. Some great cinematic images such as cigar smoke slowly blowiing through the frame, light coming in the windows, etc. The few outdoor scenes put you right there as well.

- The actors. I had NO IDEA there were SO MANY actors I knew in this film. I dunno if I recognized so many faces just because I watch a ton of movies and tv shows, or if Spielberg really got the best actors to be in the film. But scene after scene you will keep recognizing people, and they all nail their roles.

- Daniel Day Lewis. It was a pleasure watching his performance in every scene he was in, especially when Lincoln would tell his stories, usually to the chagrin of those around.

What didn't work:

-The slow pace came as quite a surprise to me. Perhaps I can blame myself for anticipating a typical Spielberg film, but really when it started out slow I figured it was building to something early on, but when that same pace persisted throughout, I quickly realized this was it. It's a film of people talking to each other and that's about it.

- I didn't feel the film succeeded fully in showing the states of what would happen if the bill didn't pass and the war didn't end. I thought the idea that Lincoln wanted the war to end so his son wouldn't be killed in battle was a brilliant one, but that went nowhere (more on that next). What would have helped was showing more scenes of the civil war and how brutal it was, but other than the opening battle we never saw anything! It was fine to talk about how many people were dying, but this is a movie, and something needed to be shown. The wheelbarrow of arms was not enough, and the film was really hurt by not showing the port battle that happened in the middle of the film.

- Back to Lincoln's son, as I said they set up a great motivation for Lincoln where he didn't want to lose another son, especially with all the scenes with Mary Lincoln about it.... but then he just gets an assignment working for Grant and it's not a big deal at all. Not a compelling end to that plot thread.

- It was really off-putting to see the "good guys" being the ones doing shady political things. I mean, I'm not saying you ever route for the opposers of the Thirteenth Amendment, but they are shown as just being men of their beliefs while the "good guys" are shown bribing and talking people into getting what they want throughout. I guess that was kind of the point, and that the bill was bigger than any man or policies, but it was uncomfortable at times to watch.

- I don't quite get what the message of the film was. It didn't really say anything about Lincoln, other than in these 2 weeks it was really important to him to pass this bill. I felt like a lot of threads are left dangling and unresolved. I think this was intentional, as it makes his death all the more shocking I suppose, but I don't think their plan succeeded and I just felt the ending was rushed and horribly executed.

Honestly I'd see it again, to take in the atmosphere, the acting, the score one more time. But now I am left feeling like with so many films that the script is the film's weakest point and made the film overall not recommendable. However many opinions can be changed in a second viewing and I actually hope to give the film one soon. I feel like right now I'm exactly split between recommending it or not. To all Spielberg and Williams fans you absolutely should see it - you never know when you're seeing the last film made by either Legend, and even their failures have enough in them to recommend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

eeehhh the score in CD is complete?

are there cool cues missing?

man, stick to the important things!

As Jason said in the Lincoln Soundtrack thread nothing major seems to be missing from the OST. The film is sparsely spotted and most cues are short, almost as if Williams had extended them on the album to make them more satisfying a listening experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The more I think about this film, the more I liked it. The message of the film that I took was the following:

  1. How Lincoln, as a person who reveres the constitution was constrained by it and was pragmatic realizing he needed to pass the 13th amendment (which identified equality for all (not just blacks) regardless of their race). This was an evolution of the Emancipation Proclamation (that stated that slavery was not legal). He was a visionary way ahead of his time and feared the Emancipation Proclamation would be quickly considered unconstitutional unless the constitution was changed with an amendment. He was the only president who served through the entire civil war pretty much perfectly despite his lack of education.
  2. Republicans were historically liberal.
  3. True progress is the result of compromise rather than forcefulness
  4. Anyone can be a good American citizen - you don't have to be a particular race, sex, etc. This openness to accept anyone as a citizen was a result of the 13th amendment.

This was a beautiful film and I too was surprised how little action there was. The drama was all through careful dialog and reserved acting. I expected some civil war scenes (more than just the opening) but it felt more like a play and a character study of a truly heroic character during a pivotal moment in US history. It was a much understated film that resonates in modern political situations and was extremely tastefully done.

My criticism of this film is there were too many characters that didn't fully explain their contribution to the story. I was sometimes bothered by the heavy handedness of Spielberg's direction but overall really enjoyed the film and longed for a politician like Lincoln. I thought it was an effective film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, there were too many characters and I did get lost at times with who they were and what their importance was.

What did you think of the ending? (You can use spoiler tags)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, there were too many characters and I did get lost at times with who they were and what their importance was.

What did you think of the ending? (You can use spoiler tags)

I was surprised the ending was a bit abrupt but saw it as a creative decision to focus on his life rather than death. We weren’t even in the right theater so this was surprising but it seemed to have a sense of dignity as the focus was on Lincoln on his death bed surrounded by helpless doctors rather than the climactic act of the assassin.

I felt a little bit denied a great Spielberg/Williams ending like in Schnidler’s List or Saving Private Ryan where the emotional gravity becomes overwhelming but also saw this as much more restrained and mature direction from Spielberg which fits the film’s tone overall.

What did you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good review Jason. I agree with many of your points. I think this film will win Oscars for acting and script, and perhaps also cinematography, director, picture, music and editing.

- The actors. I had NO IDEA there were SO MANY actors I knew in this film. I dunno if I recognized so many faces just because I watch a ton of movies and tv shows, or if Spielberg really got the best actors to be in the film. But scene after scene you will keep recognizing people, and they all nail their roles.

I agree! I was surprised to see the organ-playing guard from Minority Report, and the guy who played Robert California in The Office.

- I didn't feel the film succeeded fully in showing the states of what would happen if the bill didn't pass and the war didn't end. I thought the idea that Lincoln wanted the war to end so his son wouldn't be killed in battle was a brilliant one, but that went nowhere (more on that next). What would have helped was showing more scenes of the civil war and how brutal it was, but other than the opening battle we never saw anything! It was fine to talk about how many people were dying, but this is a movie, and something needed to be shown. The wheelbarrow of arms was not enough, and the film was really hurt by not showing the port battle that happened in the middle of the film.

I think the reason for that was to make sure the film was shot from the "in the bubble" perspective of Lincoln and the other political players. The only battle was see is the one where Lincoln is close bye, talking to soldiers (and since spectators used to literally watch Civil War battles there's a chance that Lincoln actually saw bits of that opening battle). I think Spielberg wanted us to understand Lincoln's motivations for ending slavery and ending the war, and none of those really included any up close and personal experiences with these issues.

- I don't quite get what the message of the film was. It didn't really say anything about Lincoln, other than in these 2 weeks it was really important to him to pass this bill. I felt like a lot of threads are left dangling and unresolved. I think this was intentional, as it makes his death all the more shocking I suppose, but I don't think their plan succeeded and I just felt the ending was rushed and horribly executed.

I think the message was more about the American political system than about Lincoln. It seemed to state that progress moves slow, and often a very utilitarian "ends justifies the means" mindset must be adopted in order to take these baby steps.

Oh, also--the twist at the end with Thaddeus Steven's girlfriend--I looked it up and while he did have an informal relationship with his housekeeper for many years, she was not black.

Anyone can be a good American citizen - you don't have to be a particular race, sex, etc. This openness to accept anyone as a citizen was a result of the 13th amendment.

I agree--I felt another message of this film was about gay rights in America. It seemed to both serve as a "hang in there" for gay people frustrated by the lack of progress as well as a method of putting their struggle in historical context, and in doing so perhaps winning over some of the anti-gay rights people. The part where the congressman laughingly suggested that if the US frees the slaves it will lead to biracial marriage seemed to be especially on point. I hope this doesn't constitue political speech, this is my honest interpretation of the film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought the blind guy from Sneakers really stole the show whenever he was in it. Lincoln himself was so mysterious and just kind of projected an image we already had of him. But he almost didn't even seem real at points. Spielberg even made a comparison to the animatronic Lincoln at Disney in an interview. In my opinion, Daniel Day Lewis didn't do much to separate his Lincoln from that robot, aside from actually walking around and stuff. Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field were basically playing types of roles we'd seen them in before. I mean, it wasn't a stretch for either of them. But Sneakers guy, I haven't seen him in much. He was the most genuine character in the movie. I don't really know what happened to him in the last third of the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But Sneakers guy, I haven't seen him in much. He was the most genuine character in the movie. I don't really know what happened to him in the last third of the movie.

Dear god, at least have the courtesy to google his name. It's David Strathairn!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He's a great actor actually.

Karol

Stalwart supporting actor if ever there was one but indeed great, his roles often quite reserved and quiet but still speaking volumes through his acting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lincoln is an interesting film. It's not a biopic about his life, it is not a character study, it’s not an epic production with a huge scope.

it was never meant to be a biopic or an epic. However it is a character study of the man in most every way. The film quietly gives you the knowledge that he is not a learned man, he is conflicted with his use of presidential powers, his gentleness with his son, his power which he admits he abuses but for the good, his charisma that is evident in all that approach him, it is all there.

What didn't work:

- I didn't feel the film succeeded fully in showing the states of what would happen if the bill didn't pass and the war didn't end. I thought the idea that Lincoln wanted the war to end so his son wouldn't be killed in battle was a brilliant one, but that went nowhere (more on that next). What would have helped was showing more scenes of the civil war and how brutal it was, but other than the opening battle we never saw anything! It was fine to talk about how many people were dying, but this is a movie, and something needed to be shown. The wheelbarrow of arms was not enough, and the film was really hurt by not showing the port battle that happened in the middle of the film.

I completely disagree. First how could you show the consequences of something that didn't happen and will not happen. That would be another timeline, another history.

- Back to Lincoln's son, as I said they set up a great motivation for Lincoln where he didn't want to lose another son, especially with all the scenes with Mary Lincoln about it.... but then he just gets an assignment working for Grant and it's not a big deal at all. Not a compelling end to that plot thread.

it wasn't relevant to the overall tale, and as President he made sure his son got a safe assignment but it was no guarantee of his continued safety.

- It was really off-putting to see the "good guys" being the ones doing shady political things. I mean, I'm not saying you ever route for the opposers of the Thirteenth Amendment, but they are shown as just being men of their beliefs while the "good guys" are shown bribing and talking people into getting what they want throughout. I guess that was kind of the point, and that the bill was bigger than any man or policies, but it was uncomfortable at times to watch.

again I disagree, it was brilliant, the manipulation, the conniving, the POLITICS. I never saw the democrats as the bad guys, I didn't see the supporters of abolition as necessarily the good guys. It's easy to judge 150 years past now, but this was the time they lived and it was a scary thought of change. The south is often unjustly portrayed as villains for having slaves, and history has often forgotten that most slave owners treated their slaves with kindness. what is briefly mentioned by Jackie Earle Haley, as VP of the Confederacy is this was the economics of the times. What I found profound was the scene between Lincoln and Grant in their discussion of reclamation is that had Lincoln lived I believe it would have gone much easier on the south. As Lincoln said there was enough death and it shouldn't be punishment.

- I don't quite get what the message of the film was. It didn't really say anything about Lincoln, other than in these 2 weeks it was really important to him to pass this bill. I felt like a lot of threads are left dangling and unresolved. I think this was intentional, as it makes his death all the more shocking I suppose, but I don't think their plan succeeded and I just felt the ending was rushed and horribly executed.

the message seemed clear to me, it was about a man who went to great lengths to end a corruption, even if it meant he had to do corruptible things. The ending wasn't rushed or horribly executed, it was just as it should be, it didn't focus on the man death, but his accomplishment in life.

The look back in the final scenes of his 2nd Inaugural address is more than a fitting end to a brilliant film.

Honestly I'd see it again, to take in the atmosphere, the acting, the score one more time. But now I am left feeling like with so many films that the script is the film's weakest point and made the film overall not recommendable. However many opinions can be changed in a second viewing and I actually hope to give the film one soon. I feel like right now I'm exactly split between recommending it or not. To all Spielberg and Williams fans you absolutely should see it - you never know when you're seeing the last film made by either Legend, and even their failures have enough in them to recommend.

the films script is not a weak point at all. It is that very thing that gives the basis for so many brilliant performances. Without a good script great actors do not shine.

For all SS's great films, and countless fine performances it is this very film that delivers an outstanding script that allows all involved to chew up the scenery. It's easy to say DDL, TLJ, SF all deliver fine performances, but so does David Strathairn, James Spader, Hal Holbrook(who seems the embodiment of Preston Blair), and Jared Harris as our 18th president to be.

Karelm, the US constitution's 13th Amendment abolishes slavery, it does not grant equality.

indy 4, yes Mr. Steven's housekeeper was considered black because of her mixed racial heritage.

Lincoln is an interesting film. It's not a biopic about his life, it is not a character study, it’s not an epic production with a huge scope.

it was never meant to be a biopic or an epic. However it is a character study of the man in most every way. The film quietly gives you the knowledge that he is not a learned man, he is conflicted with his use of presidential powers, his gentleness with his son, his power which he admits he abuses but for the good, his charisma that is evident in all that approach him, it is all there.

What didn't work:

- I didn't feel the film succeeded fully in showing the states of what would happen if the bill didn't pass and the war didn't end. I thought the idea that Lincoln wanted the war to end so his son wouldn't be killed in battle was a brilliant one, but that went nowhere (more on that next). What would have helped was showing more scenes of the civil war and how brutal it was, but other than the opening battle we never saw anything! It was fine to talk about how many people were dying, but this is a movie, and something needed to be shown. The wheelbarrow of arms was not enough, and the film was really hurt by not showing the port battle that happened in the middle of the film.

I completely disagree. First how could you show the consequences of something that didn't happen and will not happen. That would be another timeline, another history.

- Back to Lincoln's son, as I said they set up a great motivation for Lincoln where he didn't want to lose another son, especially with all the scenes with Mary Lincoln about it.... but then he just gets an assignment working for Grant and it's not a big deal at all. Not a compelling end to that plot thread.

it wasn't relevant to the overall tale, and as President he made sure his son got a safe assignment but it was no guarantee of his continued safety.

- It was really off-putting to see the "good guys" being the ones doing shady political things. I mean, I'm not saying you ever route for the opposers of the Thirteenth Amendment, but they are shown as just being men of their beliefs while the "good guys" are shown bribing and talking people into getting what they want throughout. I guess that was kind of the point, and that the bill was bigger than any man or policies, but it was uncomfortable at times to watch.

again I disagree, it was brilliant, the manipulation, the conniving, the POLITICS. I never saw the democrats as the bad guys, I didn't see the supporters of abolition as necessarily the good guys. It's easy to judge 150 years past now, but this was the time they lived and it was a scary thought of change. The south is often unjustly portrayed as villains for having slaves, and history has often forgotten that most slave owners treated their slaves with kindness. what is briefly mentioned by Jackie Earle Haley, as VP of the Confederacy is this was the economics of the times. What I found profound was the scene between Lincoln and Grant in their discussion of reclamation is that had Lincoln lived I believe it would have gone much easier on the south. As Lincoln said there was enough death and it shouldn't be punishment.

- I don't quite get what the message of the film was. It didn't really say anything about Lincoln, other than in these 2 weeks it was really important to him to pass this bill. I felt like a lot of threads are left dangling and unresolved. I think this was intentional, as it makes his death all the more shocking I suppose, but I don't think their plan succeeded and I just felt the ending was rushed and horribly executed.

the message seemed clear to me, it was about a man who went to great lengths to end a corruption, even if it meant he had to do corruptible things. The ending wasn't rushed or horribly executed, it was just as it should be, it didn't focus on the man death, but his accomplishment in life.

The look back in the final scenes of his 2nd Inaugural address is more than a fitting end to a brilliant film.

Honestly I'd see it again, to take in the atmosphere, the acting, the score one more time. But now I am left feeling like with so many films that the script is the film's weakest point and made the film overall not recommendable. However many opinions can be changed in a second viewing and I actually hope to give the film one soon. I feel like right now I'm exactly split between recommending it or not. To all Spielberg and Williams fans you absolutely should see it - you never know when you're seeing the last film made by either Legend, and even their failures have enough in them to recommend.

the films script is not a weak point at all. It is that very thing that gives the basis for so many brilliant performances. Without a good script great actors do not shine.

For all SS's great films, and countless fine performances it is this very film that delivers an outstanding script that allows all involved to chew up the scenery. It's easy to say DDL, TLJ, SF all deliver fine performances, but so does David Strathairn, James Spader, Hal Holbrook(who seems the embodiment of Preston Blair), and Jared Harris as our 18th president to be.

Karelm, the US constitution's 13th Amendment abolishes slavery, it does not grant equality.

indy 4, yes Mr. Steven's housekeeper was considered black because of her mixed racial heritage.

4 out of 4 stars.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll get around to analyzing the score as heard in the film at some point but yea, it might be the Williams scored film with the least amount of original score in the actual film in quite a long time. However its nowhere near the shortest score in terms of how much music was RECORDED, as approx 90 minutes was recorded (he recorded many pieces specifically for the OST)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nope. First An Unexpected Journey, then LIncoln, then John Carter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...