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Liam Neeson could have been wearing the stove hat, but he felt he was too old by the time the film got to the production stages and he had been waiting too long for it to get there. So the honour fell to Daniel Day Lewis, who coincidentally is only five years younger than Neeson but closest in age to Lincoln in the film 55 and 56 respectively, and what a performance. Now awards for films never held any interest for me but I will wish Day Lewis all the best with his nominations, they are all richly deserved.
His performance and indeed the ensemble cast performances, in particular Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife, confidante and ultimately his weakness and source of strength are all outstanding. And the film looks absolutely gorgeous, with grey and black palates providing most of the backdrops for the looming 13th Amendment which will abolish slavery and end the Civil War that has been raging now for four years.
The film focuses on the months between the Bill going to the vote and Lincoln’s assassination in Ford’s Theatre, January to April. I know four months? What could possibly happen in four months? In Spielberg’s long dreamt of telling of the story quite a lot as it happens. Lincoln manoeuvres his way through personal grief, the loss of a young son and the subsequent anguish and strain put on his family as a result. This story provides, in my opinion the best scene in the film where Day Lewis and Field argue again over how the other is dealing with the grief. Lincoln’s voice cracks when his wife accuses him of not “showing his face with grief”. He replies, “It’s too hard, it is too hard. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I wanted to be buried down there with him. And I still do. Every day I live. Don’t speak to me of grief.”
And in the middle of a personal traumatising struggle thousands are being murdered in The Civil War and his own cabinet doubts his reasoning for rushing this Bill through the house. The film raises an interesting question here during these debates. Did Lincoln push so hard to get the bill passed because he wanted to see the black race free of shackles and injustice or did he simply want to end the war so his son, who returns from college to enlist, and countless other’s mother’s sons would be spared a lonely death on some battlefield?
It never really sways you either way as Lincoln is portrayed as a loyal, family man who addresses black people in the same way as white people. But he never professes a great love for either race. It is also interesting to note that how those votes to pass the bill are secured are all played out as humorous and underhanded. His Secretary of State hires men who are effectively spin doctors to offer those opposed to the vote steady well paid internal jobs if they change their vote. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….
Overall I did enjoy the film. The performances as I stated were all first rate. Day Lewis in a rare turn out as controlled, barely audible at times gives Lincoln an everyman quality and shows him as a good father, he only raises his voice, or as Day Lewis is often described, “chews the scenery” the once. And at that it is not all that bombastic. He merely reminds his cabinet that he is indeed the President and for all intensive purposes “the man.” His way or the highway.
A mention must go to Sally Field also, her nuanced performance as a grieving mother, wife of a president and a woman is great. She is still grieving the loss of her dead son and it might have affected her mental state. Her exchanges with Day Lewis are at times fraught, loving, tender and angry. Dare I say it, their relationship comes across as one of a husband and wife having to deal with the pressures of running a country and maintain a healthy, loving marriage at the one time.
My one gripe is the length of the film. Normally films of this length (this runs just shy of two hours forty minutes) do not feel like the length of their run. This one did, it sagged in pace in certain places and if I am being honest it could have done with more battle scenes if simply to just break up the “talking scenes.” I love dialogue and acting, but this film almost has overkill at certain points. But as I said, the film looks beautiful and Day Lewis was mesmerising as Honest Abe, a good film, nowhere near great.
Before we part, dear reader a quick piece of advice if I may. If you plan on going to the cinema do not have a hearty meal before it. You know the ones that make you want to go for a nap after digesting? Myself and the good lady did we went to Cistin Eile in Wexford. A hearty meal indeed and between the heat and long talky bits I nearly dosed off twice…. FML. So go see Lincoln and dine out afterwards…..

3.5 / 5


Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Film Reviews

Tagged with , , , , ,

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