I saw the film when it played in the theater last year and was riveted to my seat. Even nature calling me to visit the rest room had to wait. It was Daniel Day Lewis's presence, Tony Kushner's words and , Steven Spielberg's direction that kept me there for nearly 2 ½ hours. This film is - in my opinion - a masterpiece and, like Spielberg's earlier film "Schindler's List", this film will serve for years (even generations) in teaching student about an important moment in history. But there are already 155 reviews of the film posted here (and I don't want to repeat what others have said.) I'll concentrate on the DVD and Bluray releases of the film.
Amazon has a general policy of grouping ALL the reviews of a film together and displaying them under all the formats. Reviews start when a fil plays in theaters and then often goes to the Amazon Instant (streaming version). So I often recommend - when posting my reviews - that you sort by "most recent" first and then look to see which version the reviewer is discussing. This is a review of the 4-disc Blu-ray+ DVD+Digital Copy, but it should guide you in your purchase, I hope.
Disney (the distributor of the home video) is issuing it in three different "formats". The single DVD contains the film and 9-minute "featurette" titled "The Journey to Lincoln" with the major "players". The 2-Disc Blueray+DVD just adds another (4-minute) featurette - this one on how they filmed in Richmond Virginia. The only advantage to this version is that you will get higher resolution image. The FOUR-disc version adds a digital copy but - more importantly - adds a "Bonus Disc) with four more featurettes which add still another 53 minutes of background to the film. The longest (at 27 minutes) is "Living With Lincoln" where we follow the filming from beginning to end with interviews from every one of the major actors plus the producer and Spielberg. "Crafting The Past" (10 minutes) covers production design and makeup) while "In Lincoln's Footsteps" (!6 minutes) all too-briefly covers the score but have a great section on how the sound designer located just the right pocket watch to record for the sound of the ticking in the film (I won't spoil the surprise by revealing the answer. These featurettes tend to overlap, slightly, and - though each plays as a separate "feature" - as a whole they provide lots of great info after you have seen the film. And I highly suggest that after watching them on the separate Bonus Disc, you click on the last "option" called "Credits". You see the credits but the visuals on the screen are a nice extra bonus.
So, If you just want to see DDL's Academy Award-winning performance, you can just get the single-disc DVD but if you want to delve deeper into the film, you'll want the 4 Disc "Combo Pack Super Set" (Disney's words; not mine).
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful!
on January 3, 2013
Not when there are already dozens of reviews, some excellent, some abysmal. Not when the subject involves so many antecedents and complexities. I couldn't imagine doing the film, or myself, justice within the scope of a few hundred words. However, an amazon friend, a citizen of Germany working in China, has sent me a request to explain why I found this film so successful. Here's my answer, which I might as well share:
"You might need to have spent some of your youth celebrating Lincoln's birthday, or noticing Lincoln's picture on the penny, or reading some of the pop boys' books about the War. You might need to have read Walt Whitman's Civil War poetry, especially "When Lilacs Last etc", and more than once. Lincoln is a powerful shamanic totemic figure in the American mind, and seeing him made human by DDL is like being told yes, there is a heaven for pets or yes any child can become president. But the film handles the assassination with the greatest cinematic subtlety. Of course I've know about the assassination in great detail all my reading life. Of course I know the Gettysburg Address by heart (though generations younger than I am probably don't). Well, there came that moment in the film when the capstone had been placed, when the passage of the 13th Amendment had been achieved -- and any blathering fool who still argues that "the War was not about slavery" should have his mouth taped shut as teachers used to do in the USA in 'the good old days' -- that moment when in effect Lincoln had become immortal morally, and at that moment I sat in the theater agonized by foreknowledge, horrified by anticipating the next scene, which could only be the assassination. Oh no! No! Not now! let the Glory wave a short while! I'm not a guy who cries in cinemas, but I couldn't stop myself from bawling as if a close friend or sib were dying in my arms. Lincoln's death became a personal tragedy for me, for the first brief time, at that moment in the film. My dry historical awareness of the tragedy will never be merely intellectual again. Wait! Not yet! Spare me the scene of his death! I WANT HIM TO LIVE!
And the film did spare us. The indirect treatment of the assassination was superb, humane, decent film-making. Proof, I'd argue, that "less" is sometimes "more", that dispassion can be more poignant than blaring cinemascopic 3-D amped-up violence.
Perhaps not everyone in the audience was as affected as I was. There are people who quibble with DDL's portrayal of Lincoln as insufficiently awesome. There are people who ardently despise Lincoln as a tyrant and desecrator of "our" Constitution. My response to the film was personal and private, linked to my own life experience in the Civil Rights movement. But that response was more intense than I expected when I bought my ticket. More intense than at any film I've seen in many years."
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner made some interesting and difficult choices in Lincoln that I think have succeeded in making a brilliant film about one of the most written about historical figures ever, and certainly the most written about and familiar American historical figure. And yet despite a billion words written about this man he still somehow remains an enigma with something withheld and unrevealable about the man. No doubt that is his continuing fascination to us and I have no doubt many more millions of words will be written, again vainly trying to get at the essence of the man. It is far easier to gaze in wonderous respect at the marble statue in his unmatched Memorial than to try to find the human being within the marble.
Spielberg and Kushner have done their best to try to find the man with the inestimable assistance of Daniel Day Lewis' genius. If they haven't succeeded completely, well they are in good company with a thousand other biographers. I liked the closeness and intimacy of the film. I liked the quiet. I liked the touching, beautiful and subtle small details: Lincoln lying down on the floor next to his sleeping son, the ever present shawl on his shoulders, the often stooped gait, Lincoln's ready reach for the illustrative yet sometimes illusive joke or story told with great good humor, Lincoln holding hands with Stimson as the war news comes in, Lincoln's fondness for and engagement with his young aides and soldiers, his gentle touches and the incredible mastery of his emotions, his rectitude and subtle manipulation of the obstreperous, passionate, often obtuse political allies and foes.
Throughout, Day Lewis is masterful in his delivery, conveying the homeliness of the man and yet the incredible strength and the sorrow that was with him every day of his Presidency that brought many of his detractors, especially Seward and others in the "team of rivals" to come to respect and love him. He's got not just the look, the voice, the walk and movements of the man down, he has the gentleness, and the innate dignity of the man as well. This is Lincoln at the end of the war and his soul-aching weariness coupled with his steely resolution is evident in every frame. He's superb. The rest of the characters in the drama have been cast carefully with wonderful actors who actually often resemble the real men they're playing. I could single out Tommy Lee Jones, David Straithairn, James Spader etc., but frankly everyone is marvelous in this cast down to every one of the maddening and quarrelsome Congressmen.
And I thought Sally Fields was a fine Mary Lincoln. Their scenes together played very well and conveyed in a few brief lines the struggles, regrets, tragic losses and difficulties that divide and also unite a long married couple who have weathered many travails. I found it convincing.
And finally, I am glad the focus of the film was the struggle to pass the 13th Amendment. Unless you're a history buff, I imagine this will come as some surprise to many and I found their handling of the politics and personalities at play both fascinating and engaging. I was absorbed and I imagine others will find revelatory the difficulty of passing this crucial legislation. And why not focus on this often overlooked struggle? As the film carefully explains, the whole moral purpose of the war, abolition, could have been undone postwar without it.
Some may find this narrowing of the events of the film to the last 6 months of Lincoln's life and the struggle to legislate a disappointment. Not me. As mentioned, we have had millions of words and many films and documentaries covering the overview of Lincoln's life. I applaud Spielberg and Kushner making an intimate film closeup and intense and, yes, full of dialogue and argument as the framework to illustrate an exceptional man in unimaginably difficult and tragic times, and finding within this closeup a glimpse of the man and his relations with wife, children, and friends and foes. It is a brilliantly acted and directed illustration of democracy being tested to its limits, ornery and contentious even within the midst of Civil War, and human beings at their most venal and at their most noble.
Many insights and much of this history is conveyed in dialogue (Lincoln's admission of his assumption of powers not necessarily granted him and ignoring of the law when he deemed it necessary is a prime example) and a potent line here and there speaks volumes about the war, the law, the Presidency, his marriage, his sorrow, his guile, and his steadfastness. Nicely done and will promote repeated viewing.
As expected from Spielberg, the production values are marvelous. Well done in all departments.
Historians will enjoy. Fictional portrayal as real as it can get. Lincoln, the man & his troubles in the last days. Spielberg sprays his magic wand glitter over every aspect of this film.
Cast is outstanding.
LINCOLN is a film with brilliant performances, flawless art design, a stilted script, and an unimpressive plot. It is akin to looking at dead flowers pressed in a book for two and a half hours.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is arguably the greatest of the American presidents, but you get little sense of that from this 2012 Steven Spielberg film, which focuses very narrowly on the presidents determination to shepherd the thirteenth amendment through a polarized House of Representatives and thereby abolish slavery in the United States. In consequence, the film consists of an endless array of political plots and counterplots, back room arm twisting, public bickering--most of it presented with a lack of interest that renders the film increasingly tedious.
If the great failings are the script and direction, the great successes are in the performances. The sparkling highlight of the film is a very unexpected performance by Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. I never questioned her performance, and although her screen time is limited, she conveys the complexities of this most complicated of first ladies beyond any possible skepticism. In watching her performance, you never think of Sally Field playing Mary Todd Lincoln; you only think of Mary Todd Lincoln. It is an astonishing achievement. In contrast, the script significantly underserves Daniel Day-Lewis. Although he has considerably more screen time than Field, he seems less complex than one expects, and while I never questioned his performance I often wished it had more scope. The same is largely true of the rest of the cast, who seem hemmed in the constraints of the "let's pass the thirteenth amendment" story.
In addition to its performances, the film is remarkable in terms of art direction. It possesses an attention to visual detail that few other films have, from Mary Todd Lincoln's jet jewelry to Abraham Lincoln's inevitably unruly hair. From fire light to candle light, from horse and buggy to battle weapons, you really feel that this is how it looked and sounded. Unfortunately, this attention to detail is quite frequently undercut by the script, which has an unfortunate way of alternating between speech that sounds correct for 1865 and speech that sounds more like 2012. It is an awkward amalgamation. As for historical inaccuracy, I leave the battle to the experts--and, quite typically, none of them really agree.
Bonuses depend on what version of the DVD you purchase. The single disk version offers a making of documentary that is worth watching, but nothing more. The elements are pristine. But in the end, one has to ask: is this movie really worth watching? My answer to that would be yes, but it is qualified yes. It is a movie worth watching, certainly, but not necessarily a movie worth re-watching. You may prefer to rent it than own it, for one viewing will likely be enough.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on January 29, 2013
Lincoln isn't a perfect movie (what is?) but it is extremely impressive. It only suffers in comparison to what a "perfect" movie about Lincoln would be. In comparison to mere mortal movies, it gets 5 stars. I can't believe that it would get any competition for a Best Picture Oscar from silly films like Django Unchained. Argo was good, but not nearly as good as this one. Lincoln will enthrall those who are interested in this dramatic, amazing time in US history. Yet it's not a war movie, it's a look at Lincoln the Man and how he navigates his role as US President, masterfully.
Daniel Day Lewis is wonderful as Lincoln. For an Englishman to play Lincoln so masterfully, he deserves the Oscar for Best Actor. The look and feel of the movie is amazing. You believe that you're in a time machine and that you're really THERE, in Washington, in 1865. The portrayal of Lincoln's political infighting with an entrenched and arrogant Congress to get the 13th Amendment passed, is intriguing and intelligent. Day inspires as Lincoln throughout. One really gets the feeling of a storm of swirling voices in a desperate time of war, crying to be heard and followed, while Lincoln is the Man of his time, calmly staying strong and resolute in the midst of this chaos and grinding out his policies. If Lincoln hadn't show great Leadership and pushed the 13th Amendment at the time he did, who knows when the country would have gotten up the courage to abolish slavery again?
The secondary performances are great, including Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as the Abolitionist Congressman Stevens, James Spader as a shifty Republican operative, David Strathairn as Secretary of State Seward, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln. Fields in particular played a very difficult role (of the suffering and neurotic Mary Todd) very well. ALL the performances were so well played -- like I said -- you think that you're really there in 1865.
Lincoln, the movie, doesn't pull punches. I hope that the producers made sure that they researched their material well and stayed true to the facts, because it makes SUCH an impact. Film-goers who always thought that the Democrats were for freeing the slaves will be surprised to find this truth out: Demos in those days were absolutely for slavery and it fell to the Republicans (split into two camps: the Abolitionists and the Conservatives) to push the 13th Amendment through. The sentiments of the anti-13th-Amendment crowd in those days is also portrayed with shocking candor. Racial fear and hatred is expressed openly in the movie. It's hard to swallow at times: was this really the mood of the people, or was this played up by Spielberg artificially? Let the viewer watch it and decide! I'm personally going to read more first-person accounts of that time of history.
I have a few "small" criticisms of the movie: some of the scenes where citizens seem to me to be insolent in front of the President were hard to take. (An opening scene with some soldiers talking to Lincoln in a very familiar and non-respectful way; a scene where Lincoln bursts in upon a lobbyist who exclaims, "Well I'll be F****ed!") I would think that coming before the President would cause 99.9% to be utterly respectfull if not petrified! Also, the opening scene of black Union soldiers hand-fighting & killing Confederates up close & personnal, is disturbing for those not thick-skinned. I'm really not sure that that scene needed to be in there as it was. But if the viewer can suffer these small annoyances and look at the overall magnificence of this film, I believe that he/she will be impressed with Lincoln's intelligence, power, realism and emotional impact.
on March 10, 2013
Why you shouldn't see it:
Talking. If you aren't a fan of having dialog in your movies, then Lincoln probably isn't for you. So if you're one of the folks who voted for The Artist last year, you may not be too fond of this one. But, good thing for this movie, only two films lacking in dialog in the history of the Academy Awards have ever won best picture, and if all of the dialog was removed from this movie, it would probably just consist of opening and closing credits. And that would be a shame, because these are some old school credits without any entertainment value on their own.
Politics. It's not that they're spending the duration of the movie talking about anything. They spend the whole time talking in, about, and around politics. Even in what you would think would be personal family moments, there are still at least strong political undertones to the conversation. So you can imagine the scenes that are set in the political arena, where political discourse would make a good deal more sense. There are lots of men with funny hair saying lots of things to posture themselves in the debate.
History. In case you hadn't gathered, the plot of this film takes place in an historical setting, a little less than 150 years ago. And no, it's not an historical fiction, where they just take the setting and then add in a really crazy plot, a la Wild Wild West. It's a straight up history, 90% of which takes place within landmarks such as the White House and the Capitol Building (the one in Washington, D.C.). So if histories make you uncomfortable and/or bore you to tears, this one might not hold your interest.
Why you should see it:
Daniel Day-Lewis. This part is probably obvious. Or maybe it isn't obvious. If I'm going to be honest with you, I'll tell you that I watched this entire movie trying to convince myself that I was, in fact, watching Daniel Day-Lewis and not Abraham Lincoln. Try as I might, I was laughably unsuccessful. I could look the man right in the beard and not tell him from the man who lived a century and a half ago. I'm not sure what to say about Day-Lewis, other than the fact that I'm glad his method acting didn't lead him to demand that they film Lincoln's assassination using a real gun. With real bullets. I want to see more movies with this man being someone completely and totally not himself.
Tommy Lee Jones. He plays a supporting character (congressman Thaddeus Stevens), obviously, so his role isn't quite as prominent as Day-Lewis', but that doesn't mean he isn't essential to the film. And it's good for you that he is, because every time he shows up on camera, he steals the scene. His ornery attitude and the fact that he's a representative from Pennsylvania may make you think he's from Philadelphia, but he shockingly is not. His witty, sarcastic characterization frequently brings a much-needed lightness to the film.
Steven Spielberg. I'm not sure there was a person I was more disappointed in last year than Steven Spielberg. The fact that he would ever even think about releasing a movie as terrible as War Horse just makes me sad in my heart. The good news is that he has acquitted himself nicely here. He takes a moment of American history, finds the story behind it, and creates a gripping, expertly told tale. Much like Affleck with Argo, Spielberg is somehow able to make the audience feel suspense over the outcome of a plot that it already knows. It's not like Congress skipped the 13th Amendment. He's also done a fantastic job of casting, from the notable (and award-recognized) efforts of Day-Lewis, Jones, and Sally Field to any of the rest of the ensemble cast. Every time you turn around, there is another face that you recognize giving their hand in telling this important tale (keep an eye out for James Spader, who is excellent).
History. America hasn't always gotten everything right. Actually, they've gotten a lot of things wrong, but sometimes it's good to be reminded of the things it has gotten right. The 13th Amendment is one of those things, and I'm not sure many people realize just how close this country was to not passing it for many more years. It gives you a whole new appreciation for the will of a few extraordinary men and their clarity of vision to pass such an historically significant piece of legislation in the face of tremendous bigotry.
Spielberg takes a part of history and makes it more. What could have been a drab exercise in the telling of the passage of a bit of legislation is instead a front row seat at one of the most important moments in US history. The whole film is shown in an almost dreamlike quality and pulls the audience into a powerful script featuring an iconic performance and generally excellent ensemble cast. I really want Abraham Lincoln to tell me another story, but sadly he's dead going on 150 years now, so instead I'll give this a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who can appreciate moments of historical significance.
Exceptions to the recommendation:
- anyone who would prefer to remain doomed to repeat history due to their lack of knowledge thereof;
- states' rights advocates who would be subject to high blood pressure from any increase in the power of the federal government;
- anyone who may just get confused that it's the republicans fighting on behalf of the minorities;
- people who were expecting to see Daniel Day-Lewis in a movie instead of Abraham Lincoln;
- people who are tired of the white-man-as-savior version of history;
- anyone who was expecting vampires or hunting thereof.
on November 15, 2015
The movie picks up momentum slowly, but I found it moving nonetheless. Having read Kerwin's book -- a riveting masterpiece, btw -- I was curious how a movie would adapt it. I assumed it would not really follow the book's themes, but play it more like a typical biopic. This movie is not a typical biopic. It truly engaged in trying to tell the serious and complex themes in Kerwin's telling of this history and of the man -- not just the sequence of events but also the deep underpinnings of Lincoln's character, his political skills, his ideas, and the evolution of his moral philosophy. The only thing the movie couldn't quite capture was the tense, complicated, chess-like dynamics between Lincoln and his cabinet members, some of whom were more like his adversaries! Day-Lewis's performance is well deserved of the Oscar. I cannot imagine anyone else playing Lincoln with the same gravitas, gentleness, humor, and will of steel. I also enjoyed the performance of Ulyssis S. Grant. The actor who played him looked so familiar, but I could not place him for the life of me. Looking him up after the movie, I discovered it was the actor who played the British Lane Pryce in Mad Men! Whoa - talk about a change! Overall, very worth watching. However, no substitute for the book. Believe me - as strange as it may sound - Kerwin's book is like the most gripping, suspenseful, page turner -- even though, yes, you know what's going to happen. It's HOW we get there that she makes a riveting lose-sleep-because-you-can't-put-it down kind of reading.
on July 13, 2015
While it is a long and drawn out film, it's very interesting if you have any interest in this part of Lincoln's life. I read Team of Rivals which this film is based on and it was a really great book. It was nice to see it come to life in the film.
on April 11, 2013
I watched on line and I ordered a copy for my uncle. I had difficulty hearing dialog online, but that may be my problem. I also had some kind of glitch where the video stopped. My uncle reported to me that his copy stopped at 108 minutes, but since he got it to continue, he did not wish to return it. The atmosphere and the acting were excellent. The look at the workings of government and the passage of the 13th ammendment were fascinating. I will have to get better speakers or get a dvd myself to improve sound quality. I don't know if the pause was intentional or not on the disk and online. I liked seeing Lincoln's character being portrayed as a politician, storyteller, husband, and father in a more real and rounded way, not just as a revered and heroic figure.
I will have to look at the movie again to see if it really holds up as a drama. I felt somewhat disappointed in the lack of emotional involvement that I felt at times.