Lincoln 4-Disc Blu-ray l 2-Disc Blu-ray l DVD
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITER: Tony Kushner
STARRING: Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Peter McRobbie, Lee Pace, David Costabile, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley
RELEASE DATE: March 26, 2013
“A compass I learnt when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you true north from where your standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps, deserts and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what’s the use of knowing true north?”
We’re all familiar with Abraham Lincoln. We know he freed the slaves. We know his distinctive look. He’s even on our money. But how much do we really know? I for one can admit that I did not know much more than the basics, about the same as the average person would know (I fell asleep in history class a lot, what can I say), but as I’ve gotten older my interest in history has grown exponentially, and lessons via documentary or biopic and so on can be just as appealing as the latest popcorn flick.
With movies, however, we’re always wondering in the back of our brain just how historically accurate the story we’re being told really is. And this will happen no less while viewing Lincoln, the latest film from director Steven Spielberg which tells the story of our 16th president and his fight to pass the 13th Amendment, the amendment that aimed to put an end to slavery.
The movie opens with a brutal battle between the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War, which raged for four years from 1861 to 1865—the same four years that Lincoln served as president—and a chat between the president and some Union soldiers. After Lincoln put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation—ordered using his authority as commander in chief, not by getting Congress to pass an actual law—he feared it would be seen only as a war tactic and slavery would continue after the war had ended if something wasn’t done. This led to the introduction of the 13th Amendment, and the fight for its ratification.
Lincoln may be looked at as “Oscar bait,” as it’s called—movies made and released with intentions of scoring Academy Award nominations and wins, as well as other awards. And it is that, obviously. Still, movies like it can and often are worth watching, and this is one of those movies for the history mentioned above, as well as other reasons.
As it turns out, Lincoln is indeed historically accurate, looking past the expected collection of inaccuracies you’ll find in even the most faithful of historical films and biopics, of course. Instead of just seeing the result, we see the entire process. All of the drama and complexities of the fight for the ratification of the 13th Amendment, the fight for freedom for all. And just how fragile a process it was.
Again, most of us only know the basics, so seeing the battles and maneuvers of these politicians as they play this chess match to either ratify or destroy the 13th Amendment is fascinating stuff. In fact it’s not so different than the way things are done today, with both sides doing a great deal of bickering and intiating plenty of more private confrontations as said sides try to secure the necessary votes and support for their cause.
But we rarely see or remember all the madness that ensues during such important times in politics; we only know the results. 150 years from now people will likely be talking about the movies made about whatever happens with some of the hot-button topics our own government has been battling over lately (if we don’t make those movies immediately after, which is always a strong possibility). These are the things that make us feel so very small.
This is obviously an important film for reasons such as these. But is it a good movie? Is it a movie you’ll be happy you watched?
A movie that’s built entirely on dialogue, such as Lincoln is, requires nothing short of stellar performances from its actors. Clearly the anchor of this particular movie is Daniel Day-Lewis (who won an Oscar for his work) as Honest Abe, and the actor is flawless…as he tends to be. But he’s surrounded by one of the best casts I’ve seen, and all bring their A-game. From Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field (who are both brilliant) in more substantial roles to the wealth of ultra talented actors who filled the many smaller roles that made up the movie, such as James Spader as the memorable W.N. Bilbo, a man who provides a bit of comic relief as he does some of the dirtier work helping to find and acquire support for the 13th. There are remarkable performances to enjoy—great and small—throughout the film, and they all go a long way. Watching the movie also often had me thinking of Liam Neeson, who was originally set to play Lincoln (and dropped out because he was too old, oddly enough). As much as I love Neeson, it’s crazy to think of him doing this movie, that’s how damn good Day-Lewis is.
Lincoln is a movie that tells a story people should know better than they do, and it tells it on a grand scale, with impeccable, award-caliber performances, wonderful set and costume designs, and the music of John Williams to tie it all together. It is a tad lengthy and can be slow at times—as is to be expected with a period film of this size and relevance—but do not let that deter you from watching at least once, not only for the history, but to appreciate all of components of this fine and inspiring production.
If you pick up this four-disc version (and the two-disc version, it’s assumed) there’s not only a couple of bonus features on the disc with the movie, but also an entire extra disc of goodies.
My favorite part of all of these bonus goodies is the meeting of two greats—Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis—and the results of their collaboration, which ended with a teary-eyed Spielberg saying goodbye to Day-Lewis, who had stepped out of his unbelievable immersion into Lincoln, and back into his normal, everyday British self.
The Journey To Lincoln — Director Steven Spielberg and others briefly discuss their journey in bringing Abraham Lincoln to the big screen.
A Historic Tapestry: Richmond, Virginia — Another brief featurette, this one looking at the importance of Richmond, Virginia, and why they chose to film the movie there.
In The Company Of Character — A look at the actors and how they came to play the characters they played, starting with the great Daniel Day-Lewis and his unparalleled ability to become the characters that he plays.
Crafting The Past — This one jumps into the immense detail put into designing the sets and props and costumes and so on, such as the wallpaper behind Lincoln in one scene you’d never think twice about that is the same exact wallpaper behind Lincoln in pictures of him or actual letters and documents from that time that were reproduced and scattered around certain sets.
Living With Lincoln — A full-on making of feature looking at the movie itself as well as all of the history behind it.
In Lincoln’s Footsteps — A closer look at the smaller things you might not always look at, such as the editing, sound design, and John Williams’ score, including the ticking of a clock you’d, again, never think twice about, but that was recorded from one of Lincoln’s actual watches or clocks.