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Film Review: Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln, A Look at a Time in American History that All Can Enjoy


In a stroke of Genius, Steven Spielberg brings us an epic historical drama - disguised as a blockbuster - conveying the trials of the 13th Amendment, the Civil War, and Lincoln’s life as no one has done before.  With details that were previously unknown to me, I felt myself both engrossed and learning. Graphic images portrayed the gruesome loss of life and limb for soldiers on both sides. 

 Lincoln (2012)           President Abraham Lincoln, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, is a shrewd calculating man, who sets his sights on his goals and is willing to do what it takes to achieve those ends.  He is such a caring man that Lincoln takes time to visit battlefields, talk to those that seek and audience with him, and care for his sons, including Robert Todd Lincoln played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and sick wife Mary Todd Lincoln played by Sally Field. Drama unfolds on both the floor of the House, and in backroom deals. Debates on why, or why not African Americans, should be equal under the law range from God, to voting, to fear of women being treated as equals too. Many of the arguments are fielded at, or by Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who is a strong supporter of equality, whose hot temper was a source of amusement for the Democrats. Special interest groups are seen doing what they are thought to continue to do today, pay off delegates to push their agendas. The final push for the amendment takes place over the course of a single month, something I had never realized before.


Insights into the war include Robert Todd Lincoln who is fiercely opposed to joining the army, until he sees fist hand. While traveling with his father who visiting injured soldiers, he decides he must take up arms to join the fray; a source of contention between the President and his wife.  In a move to secure more votes Lincoln give the Republican Party President the option to negotiate peace with the Confederates. The Democrats who find out about a confederate delegation in Washington, they move to delay the vote saying that the war can end without abolishing slavery. They argue Lincoln is holding the war hostage for his antislavery agenda. Since Lincoln only authorized someone else to do the negotiations he was able to say he had no knowledge of a delegation in a clever lawyering of words.



In my opinion this movie is a must see, having political intrigue, action in the form of verbal sparring, parallels to modern day politics, and an insight few outside the academic realm still remember.  A. O. SCOTT of the New York Times described the move as “this is among the finest films ever made about American politics (Scott, 2012).”  With only a few slow moments at the start, I found myself unable to look away. Historically accurate speech and clothing brought realism to the tale. While counting the votes, though intellectually I knew the amendment passed, I was biting my nails hoping for enough “Ayes” to pass. When I finished I found myself looking up to see if different details were true or not like Thaddeus Stevens’ twist at the end. If you are looking for a film to jog both your brain and emotions get your hands on a copy of Lincoln today. 

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