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Lincoln - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

STEVEN Spielberg’s Lincoln offers a worthy, often interesting but sometimes arduous account of the battle to abolish slavery.

It features another astonishing central performance from Daniel Day-Lewis (which looks all but guaranteed Oscar success), plenty of showy support from the likes of Tommy Lee Jones (excellent), Sally Field (suitably put upon) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (great, as always), and succeeds in underlining just how difficult a period in history it was.

But Spielberg’s direction sometimes feels laboured and is unnecessarily reverential and lacks the ability to consistently grip as it should.

If Lincoln himself had a reputation for taking things slowly, then Spielberg seems to be taking his cues from him. Hence, the film ambles in places when it should really be cutting to the chase.

The story itself concentrates on the crucial period when newly re-elected President Lincoln took it upon himself to force through a 13th Amendment to the Constitution that would abolish slavery completely.

In order to do so, he not only required every one of his fellow Republicans to vote in favour of it but also 20 Democrats.

But with rumours of a Southern peace delegation bound for Washington intended on bringing to an end four years of bloody Civil War, Lincoln had to balance a country’s desire for peace at any cost with his own need to push through the Bill at the only time he could rely on a majority support in its favour.

An end to the war without the Bill in place could end any possibility of bringing about change as vested interests looked to ensure that black Americans could never have a chance to be seen as equal to White Americans.

Spielberg, for his part, doesn’t shy away from exploring some of the political brinkmanship required in securing Lincoln his votes (including the pay-offs and tactical manoeuvring), while also examining the conflict this brought to Lincoln himself.

He also delves into the president’s family life, offering insights into the increasingly strained relationships he had with his wife, a woman still struggling to cope with the death of one of their sons and her own injuries sustained in an accident, and with his eldest son (Gordon-Levitt), who wants to enlist against the wishes of both parents.

Some of this is compelling and affords a strong ensemble cast plenty of opportunity to shine.

But it also deprives the film of any real tautness while also preventing it from delving into some of the morals and ethics at play more sharply. Only brief lip service is paid to how even the North treated its own black soldiers with lower wages and poorer conditions, for instance.

Spielberg, though, is too enamoured of his main character, often indulging his propensity to convey key thoughts with stories of past experiences and therefore bogging the film down in self-indulgent rhetoric.

That said, Lincoln remains an important and even fascinating piece of work that demands to be seen by anyone with a keen interest in pivotal moments in history.

It also offers an acting masterclass from Day-Lewis, who all but underlines his position as one of the greatest actors of all-time.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 150mins
UK Release Date: January 25, 2013