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Lincoln

By REBECCA JACOBSON

Lincoln opens with a shot of Abraham’s very large, very statuesque head. As the camera pans to the front, the effect is startling. Though the 16th president has been put to film many times before, no one has looked the part like Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s a ringer: hollowed cheeks, slightly unruly mop of hair, a creased forehead and heavy brow. So when Day-Lewis first moves and speaks, it’s weirdly disquieting. But the initial shock of a reanimated Abe quickly fades, because Day-Lewis’ portrayal goes beyond physical likeness: His performance is brilliantly malleable, fully inhabited and deeply transfixing. It’s Oscar bait of the highest order. The same can’t be said for all of Lincoln. Though Steven Spielberg’s stately drama is shrewd, balanced and impressively restrained, it’s also uneven and dogged by a waxy stuffiness, made worse by Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, which is so dark and blue it looks bruised. Focusing on the fight to abolish slavery in the first few months of 1865, the film turns in mesmerizing moments of political wheeling and dealing, as well as blistering debates and brazen name-calling on the House floor—it’s C-SPAN with waistcoats and muttonchops. More like a stage production than a Spielbergian spectacle, some of the best dialogue comes during the boisterous House vote on the 13th Amendment. Though we know the result, Spielberg manages to imbue the scene with moral complexity and gripping tension, as well as rowdy humor. It’s both inspirational and disheartening: Could contemporary politicians overcome such partisan gridlock? “Say all we’ve done is shown the world that democracy isn’t chaos?” Lincoln asks at one point. Nearly 150 years on, can we claim the same?

 
  • Genres: Biography, Historical drama
  • Running Time: 150 minutes
  • Release Date: Friday, January 25, 2013
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 [ Brief Strong Language, Intense Scene of War Violence, Some Images of Carnage ]
  • Critic's Score: B
  • Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis [Abraham Lincoln], Sally Field [Mary Todd Lincoln], David Strathairn [William Seward], Joseph Gordon-Levitt [Robert Todd Lincoln], James Spader [], Hal Holbrook [], Tommy Jones [Thaddeus Stevens], John Hawkes [Robert Latham], Jared Harris [Ulysses S. Grant], Walton Goggins [Wells A. Hutchins], Gulliver McGrath [Tad Lincoln]
  • Directed by: Steven Spielberg [Director], Tony Kushner [Screenwriter], Steven Spielberg [Producer], Kathleen Kennedy [Producer], Daniel Lupi [Executive Producer], Jeff Skoll [Executive Producer], Jonathan King [Executive Producer], Janusz Kaminski [Cinematographer], Rick Carter [Production Design], Michael Kahn [Film Editor], John Williams [Original Music], Joanna Johnston [Costume Designer], Avy Kaufman [Casting]
  • Visit the Movie Website | Watch the trailer
 

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