Film Review: ‘Lincoln’ Magnificently Humanizes the Man, Our History

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CHICAGO – There is an argument that Steven Spielberg is the most “American” of directors, at least in his generation. He deftly and brilliantly teams up with playwright Tony Kushner and actor Daniel Day-Lewis to humanize and realize our 16th president in “Lincoln.”

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 5.0/5.0
Rating: 5.0/5.0

By focusing on a single month in Abraham Lincoln’s tumultuous administration, at a tipping point in both American history and the Civil War, “Lincoln” boldly brings to life an era that in previous incarnations – both in textbooks and movies – has been portrayed as starchy and formal. In this presentation, Abraham Lincoln is a living, breathing flesh-and-blood man, with an uncanny ability to make the right decisions at a time when the right decisions are desperately necessary. The process of his strategy for passing a very political piece of legislation is fascinating to experience, and with every supporting actor – plus a career defining performance by Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln – the film is a reverential tribute to this country’s greatest president.

It is January in the new year of 1865, and the Civil War is winding down. Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) had signed an executive order in 1863 called the Emancipation Proclamation, in essence freeing the African-American slaves. But what is necessary to make it law is a constitutional amendment. Lincoln knows he can never get the reconstructed South to go along, so if he could push the amendment through a 2/3rds majority in Congress, he could both get the Proclamation as law and hasten the end of the war.

This tricky balancing act is in the background of the day-to-day war activities, Lincoln’s family which includes wife Mary (Sally Field), and a cabinet that has been described as a “team of rivals.” Like any piece of political legislation, there needs to be “lobbyists,” and Lincoln authorizes three scalawags (precisely portrayed by James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson) to cajole, bribe and influence undecided members of Congress. In the meantime Lincoln’s son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is pining to enlist in the war, adding more pressure to an explosive situation for the Great Emancipator.

“Lincoln” opens everywhere November 9th. Featuring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook and Jared Harris. Written by Tony Kushner, based on “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Lincoln”

Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Family Guy: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) Gives Advice to his Son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in ‘Lincoln’
Photo credit: Touchstones Pictures

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Lincoln”

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