'Lincoln' provides fascinating peek into history

By Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comNovember 16, 2012 

Lincoln is a very good movie. In spite of award-worthy performances -- especially from Daniel Day-Lewis -- an incredible, not that well-known story and what could have been great movie is only a good one.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

First, the plot.

Lincoln follows the legendary president during the waning days of the Civil War. His push, passion and focus is to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in northern states, but Lincoln knew it needed to be an official government act before the war's end.

The nation is tired of war, death and carnage. At this point in history, the South is done. Beaten. A settlement, and a less-than-willing Congress could mean continued slavery in the South. Lincoln could get a settlement and end the war, but he refuses to move that direction without passing the amendment so there is no doubt the slaves are free in the entire nation.

The chess match with Congress is fascinating and, ironically in today's political climate, it is the Republicans that are the liberals and Democrats the "keep things as they are" conservatives.

Day-Lewis is made up to look incredibly like Abraham Lincoln. Director Steven Spielberg often shoots him in poses that make him look like the famous penny.

His performance is equal to the look. Day-Lewis shows us a distracted, troubled president. The weight of the world is on his shoulders. It's too much to bear, but he must.

The best scenes are when Day-Lewis interprets Lincoln as a storyteller using parables and interesting stories to make points. Lincoln the teacher and instructor is fascinating, and Day-Lewis makes you feel as if you've gone back in time and are seeing the real thing.

He also does a brilliant job on Lincoln's voice. It's in a high register and is not like the voice that movies that include Lincoln as a character usually use. But the voice -- like much of the movie -- is historically accurate.

Day-Lewis alone doesn't make this movie worth catching. He gets incredible supporting help from Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as legendary legislator Thaddeus Stevens and from David Strathairn, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jackie Earle Haley.

As with all Spielberg projects, the acting is world-class. It's his movie that suffers. Spielberg is an enigma. He's arguably one of the greatest directors of all time. At the same time, Spielberg is also among the worst. His problem is not knowing when -- to put it delicately -- to shut up.

The side story with Mary Lincoln Todd and another with their son Robert wanting to join the military, and then Lincoln's assassination, distract from what Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner (Munich) seem to be trying to impart. Showing all that was happening in Lincoln's life at the end of his life is probably very interesting in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Policial Genius of Abraham Lincoln upon which the movie is based.

But that's a book. This is a movie and the extra material -- while somewhat interesting -- drags out the movie.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jackie Earle Haley

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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