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Old January 11 2014, 06:40 PM   #39
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Re: Movies Seen In 2014

On a TV:

5. Lincoln (2012) -- B+

For the most part, this is what a good biopic should be. Rather than trying to compress Lincoln's entire life into 150 minutes, it instead offers a portrait of Lincoln during the last months of his life, focusing on his push to pass the 13th Amendment by the end of January, 1865. When the film is focused on these political machinations, it is superb, and surprisingly unsentimental for Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis is, to no one's surprise, excellent in the title role, but as Thaddeus Stevens, Tommy Lee Jones might offer the best performance in the movie. Stevens certainly had an interesting life; time for a sequel about his clashes with Andrew Johnson!

I'm not sure it's a great movie, though. Although Lincoln's political life is fully realized, the script struggles to give dimension to his personal life. Lincoln's relationship with his older son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) strikes me as a distraction, and their conflict (Lincoln wants Robert to finish law school, but Robert wants to enlist) is basically without stakes, since when Robert does enlist he becomes a clerk for General Grant, which carries little risk. The depiction of Lincoln's troubled marriage is more interesting (and Sally Field is good as his wife), although an early scene between the two involving a dream sequence is tonally odd.

The movie also goes on for too long. The climax is the passage of the amendment, and the epilogue is Lincoln's meeting with the Confederate peace envoy. Subsequent scenes showing the surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln leaving for Ford's Theatre, Lincoln on his death bed (the assassination isn't dramatized), and a flashback to Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address are all extraneous.

Still, I liked the film quite a bit, and whenever it focuses on Lincoln's political machinations, it is masterful.
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