Daily News header

Lincoln Film Review

By     get stories by email

Civil War Docudrama Revisits Great Emancipator's Team of Rivals

At the beginning of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln invited three of his political opponents to join his Cabinet to form a so-called "Team of Rivals" with the hope of preserving the Union. But the challenges proved to be insurmountable as the Southern states seceded anyway, leading to the outbreak of The Civil War.

By late 1864, much blood had been spilled and the sides seemed as bitterly divided as they had been at the start of the conflict. Even holding the contending factions inside the surviving coalition together came courtesy of compromise, which explains why the Emancipation Proclamation freed the Confederacy's slaves but none in any of the Union's four, remaining slave states.

lincoln
Teaser poster. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Based on Harvard historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's 944-page opus "Team of Rivals," Lincoln telescopes tightly on the last five months of the Great Emancipator's life, a period during which he was desperately devoted to both abolishing slavery and reuniting the country by ending the Civil War. The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, and bears many of the legendary director's trademark visual effects like blowing curtains and light flares.

The production is first rate in terms of cast, from Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role to a stellar supporting ensemble which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, James Spader, David Strathairn, Gloria Reuben, S. Epatha Merkerson, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Jackie Earl Haley and Bruce McGill. Nor did Spielberg scrimp when it came to costuming or set design, which means the film feels authentic and never hits a false note plotwise.

The picture basically revolves around Lincoln's twisting elbows to get the two-thirds vote in Congress necessary to pass the 13th Amendment ending slavery. This means most of the movie focuses on his exercising his powers of persuasion, promising (sometimes with his fingers crossed) whatever it takes to induce reluctant fellow Republicans and adversaries from across the aisle to support his historic measure.

The President is helped in this regard by his Secretary of State, William Seward (Strathairn) who, in turn, enlists the assistance of Congressmen Bilbo (Spader), Latham (Hawkes) and Schell (Nelson). And already counted on for their votes are longtime liberals like Thaddeus Stevens (Jones) and James Ashley (David Costabile).

This flick doesn't feature any epic battle scenes or even Lincoln's assassination, but simply lots and lots of talk scenes. The conversation-driven docudrama winds what passes for tension around the fait accompli of whether or not the president's bill will pass.

While watching talking heads exchanging dialogue borrowed from "Team of Rivals" might delight history buffs, it's unfortunately likely to test the patience of kids without a 2 hour attention span unless it involves action and special f/x. Is it still worth the investment? Yes, but not if you're expecting anything more than a poignant portrait of Lincoln's last days, time spent as a marked man making his appointed rounds en route to his rendezvous with destiny.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for gruesome images, brief profanity, ethnic slurs and an intense scene of war violence.

Running time: 149 minutes

Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures

To see a trailer for Lincoln:

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze. Read more reviews by Kam Williams.

  Please click this get stories by email button to be notified about future stories, and please leave a comment below.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Movie Reviews News

On TV, Kalpen Suresh Modi is Dr. Lawrence Kutner, on the critically-acclaimed series House. He appeared on 24, and guest-starred in Law & Order: SVU.
For the movie lovers out there who want to start the week in a 'relaxing mode' and stress-free evening, here are the top DVD releases of the week:
Nate Parker has been busy. He appeared in the action thriller Non-Stop, with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. Last year, he starred in Ain't Them Bodies Saints, with Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster.
After 10,000 people were killed in Bhopal, Union Carbide settled a mammoth wrongful death lawsuit for just $300 per corpse without taking responsibility.
Movie reviewer Kam Williams gives the film, 'Interstellar' 2 stars. Williams states that he is not too proud to admit that he couldn't follow the convoluted storyline but said at least the panoramic visuals remained absolutely breathtaking.
Prairie Miller interviews John Leguizamo, on Fugliness, FARC, art as a form of revenge. It involves Hollywouldn't and power and privilege in Latin America.

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month



Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site