Lincoln (12A)

Film image

The ViewBirmingham Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner25/01/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 144 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is an absorbing and enjoyable political drama with an Oscar-worthy central performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.

What's it all about?
Directed by Steven Spielberg, Lincoln, despite the title, is not a traditional biopic but instead a dramatisation of President Abraham Lincoln's (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment and outlaw slavery as the Civil War draws to a close. Beginning in January 1865, the film's events take place over just a few weeks as Lincoln, supported by Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn), tries everything he can think of to shore up the votes he needs in Congress, a task made more difficult by strong opposition and the fact that Congress had already rejected the Amendment almost a year previously.

Part of Lincoln's strategy involves deploying a trio of less than scrupulous lobbyists (John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson and James Spader) to lean on wavering voters and secure their support by any means necessary (plus ca change, etc), while also apparently delaying negotiations on the ending of the war. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, Lincoln clashes with his wife Mary (Sally Field) and tries to dissuade his eldest son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from joining the army.

The Good
Daniel Day-Lewis is terrific as Lincoln, resisting the temptation for grandstanding and instead downplaying it to riveting effect; he also delivers an impressive approximation of Lincoln's relatively high-pitched, nasal voice that works well. There's also superb work from a top-notch supporting cast that includes Spader (comfortably stealing every scene he's in), Nelson, Hawkes and Strathairn as well as a fantastic and deservedly Oscar-nominated performance from Tommy Lee Jones as fiery Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and colourful turns from the likes of Lee Pace (as Fernando Wood) and Michael Stuhlbarg (as George Yeaman).

Tony Kushner's excellent script (in part adapted from a book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin) is stuffed to the brim with engaging, intelligent dialogue that puts you in mind of a 19th century West Wing. Indeed, while it is fair to describe Lincoln as a two and a half hour film about legislation (they could have retitled it ‘Abraham Lincoln and the Passing of the Thirteenth Amendment’), it is utterly gripping from start to finish and even leaves you wanting more.

The Great
Spielberg's direction is impeccably assured throughout, aided by Janusz Kaminski's striking cinematography and a stirring score from longtime collaborator John Williams. In addition, the film is often surprising, resisting, for example, the temptation to fall into either speechifying or sentimentality; indeed, the film as a whole is refreshingly free of the expected biopic clichés, an approach best illustrated by an intriguingly bold stroke in the closing sequences that it would be unfair to reveal here.

Worth seeing?
Superbly directed and brilliantly written, Lincoln is a literate and thoroughly absorbing political drama with a terrific central performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Lincoln (12A)
Be the first to review Lincoln...
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 26/09/2018 16:21

Latest Film Reviews

Film Blog

Urban Pundit

Keep up to date with everything in film and cinema at Urban Pundit, the exciting new blog.

Film of the Week

The Conjuring (15)

Hugely enjoyable, genuinely scary horror flick that provides a welcome throwback to classic 1970s chillers, thanks to impeccable production design, a superb script, powerfully atmospheric direction, intense set-pieces and terrific performances.

Latest Close Up

Noah Baumbach Interview

The Frances Ha director discusses co-writing the script with Greta Gerwig, shooting against the backdrop of New York and the real lives of the city’s people, Greta Gerwig’s performance, the music in the film and the picture's visual style.