Review of "Lincoln (DVD)"

published 25/02/2014 | catsholiday
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Sad to see this site no longer paying. Thanks to everyone for reading and rating over the years and hope not to lose touch with long term ciaoers.
Pro Well made and great acting
Cons Heavy on the dialogue and a tiny part of Lincoln's life
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Characters / Performances
Special Effects

"A great film that will appeal to few"

This is a film only review as I saw this in the cinema when it was not yet out on DVD in this country. My husband and I recently visited Springfield in Illinois and all the Lincoln sites including the museum where his story is told very well. We also visited his law firm, the old Senate building where a lot of this film is shot and indeed on a previous holiday we went to Appomattox where the end of the Civil War was agreed and signed and this was also in the film. I think the fact that we had only recently experienced all this made the film very much more interesting for us.

We went with my step son and we were all very impressed with the production and the acting was faultless bit as he pointed out, it was very heavy on the dialogue.

This is not Lincoln’s life story and in fact it covers only a small part of his time as President; the last four months. In his first term he was VERY unpopular, mocked in the press both at home and abroad and yet by the time he died he had become extremely popular and his body was taken around the USA prior to his funeral.

The acting as I said was excellent with a performance from Daniel Day Lewis that would have fooled those who actually knew Lincoln I would imagine. His accent was amazing and the way he told the anecdotes were utterly believable and from what we learned when visiting the sites in Springfield the portrayal created by Daniel Day Lewis was hard to fault. Sally field was also just as I imagined his wife and she looked like the wax figure in the museum we visited and from what we learned she never really recovered from the death of her son and was not really happy in the White House at any time.

Lincoln appears to become very distracted by the 13th amendment and when his son returns from University and announces he want to join the army, Lincoln agrees and tells Mary that they must allow him to make his own decisions. This tips an already unstable Mary over the emotional brink and there is a very heated argument. According to records Lincoln did not have a very close relationship with his eldest son which is quite sad and maybe why he felt he should support his decision in joining the army.

I personally thought Tommy Lee Jones put in an excellent performance as Thaddeus Stevens and the two rather shady characters whose job it was the ‘encourage’ senators to vote for the amendment were also well acted. I was less impressed with Robert Lincoln who I felt was a bit wooden and his reaction to the hospital visit was a bit unbelievable but that is my personal opinion. Interestingly he is the only one of the four sons that the Lincolns had that lived to become an adult which was very sad I thought.

Lincoln is well known as the president who abolished slavery but in realty this passing of the 13th Amendment was a milestone but it was a only the start of the long battle for the people who were now free but what could they do with that freedom re jobs etc. It was a major breakthrough and a battle that cost him his life in the end. The fight was not always that clean and upright either but I suppose we have the benefit of knowing the future and the means did justify the end in this case.

Spielberg as a director enjoys a good historical drama and fortunately this one could not be ruined by the awful ‘allo Allo’ accents like ‘War Horse’ was. This was American and Daniel Day Lewis managed the accent perfectly even un criticised by Americans so that was one hurdle overcome.

The setting was also in America and the sites used were authentic. The Civil War battles I thought were a bit ‘Gone with the Wind’ personally and lacked the authenticity that Spielberg usually creates in his films but fortunately they were few and bot really essential to the story either.

I do wonder how popular the film will be for the average non American film goer as although the story is well known in America, the average English person I think would not really be familiar with it at all unless they were interested in history and American history at that.

Even though the film is excellent, the acting superb and the story well told I still think the film will have a limited audience. My family is a case in point. My daughter is an American history fanatic and has been to see it, my step son went with us and his interest in in the film making and the acting and he found it rather heavy on the dialogue. My two step daughters have no interest and both are teachers so not unintelligent but just have no interest. My son lives in Toronto and went to see it as he is very interested in US politics and history generally. I don’t know anyone else of my friends and neighbours who want to see the film so I do think it will not stay in the cinemas fr long over here despite its Oscar nominations., and Bafta award for DDL of course.

I do think Spielberg and DDL captured Lincoln’s character well with his gentle but determined approach to politics and his openness and willingness to talk to anyone and everyone. His strong commitment to abolishing slavery which began when he saw a slave auction when he was quite young also came through, as did his love for his family and his lack of discipline towards his boys.
DDL was just as I had pictured Lincoln when we visited all the sights connected with him. His looked like him; walked like he did in the films we saw and even spoke with the same soft rather unassuming voice telling those ambling but quite pointed stories.

I quite enjoyed the scenes in the senate and the debates, some were quite amusing. It made me smile when they were discussing that the Amendment bill would only free the slaves and not give them other rights as citizens such as the vote, goodness knows they will be giving women the vote next, was one comment. It does make you realise how far we have come in such a relatively short time in history when you hear things like that.

I didn’t realise quite how close run a thing this Amendment being passed was. The difficult thing, apart from getting enough votes from not only his own party but also from the Democrats was that the North were winning the war and the South were making overtures for a surrender . If the Peace treaty had been signed before the Amendment passed Lincoln was certain it never would be passed as people would lose interest. Lincoln played a very dodgy game holding off peace talks until the Amendment was through and he was not entirely honest when questioned about this either.

I mentioned Tommy Lee Jones before and he plays the very outspoken Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens who is asked to curb his enthusiasm for the Amendment and emphasize its limitations even though he really wants it to go much further. Lincoln knows that he must get this first step through before he can move any further towards equality. Jones plays this role brilliantly and when the Amendment is passed and he returns home we see why he is so very adamant that black people should be given equality not just slaves freed.

Spielberg as always spent years preparing for the creation of this film. He always chooses to make films that are dear to his heart and puts his all into them. The sets were very authentic and the rooms look exactly like you imagine they did, dark, filled with rather uncomfortable chairs and looking quite cold. The debates were lively and entertain as a political debate can be at times


Tony Kushner's script has come under some criticism as in the film they had Connecticut voting against the 13th Amendment where as in fact they voted for it. Kushner responded by saying that he didn’t feel a historical drama needed to be factually accurate .
"Accuracy is paramount in every detail of a work of history. Here's my rule: Ask yourself, 'Did this thing happen?' If the answer is yes, then it's historical," he wrote. "Then ask, 'Did this thing happen precisely this way?' If the answer is yes, then it's history; if the answer is no, not precisely this way, then its historical drama."
I am not sure I agree with that and I am quite sure that the Democratic Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney who spotted the error feels the same as I do. Dreamworks did say that this might be corrected before it is released on DVD. Interesting little fact I thought.

Another minor inaccuracy is when the peace is signed at Appomattox Courthouse. Grant is shown in the movie in a dress uniform, when apparently he was actually covered in mud and looking quite dishevelled and battle weary whereas Lee was upright and smartly turned out. Also the actual surrender took place face-to-face in a quiet room not as it was portrayed in the film . However that is a minor criticism but one most Americans would know and certainly one anyone who had visited Appomattox would know.

Lincoln was known for his jokes and story telling and using these as a way of diffusing sometimes tense situations. The story in the film about Ethan Allen and the British outhouse is one of his favourites but it is not known whether the story is actually true or just Lincoln’s creation.


Yes if you have any interest in US history or just a darn good film about one of the most famous US presidents then do go and watch it. Be prepared for a lot of debate and dialogue and not a lot of action. The film is brilliantly put together and the acting fantastic, not only DDL but others too are excellent but he does indeed deserve the nomination for best actor and if I was choosing he would get the Oscar too but I don’t think the film will get the best film Oscar as it has a limited appeal outside the USA. Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field have also both had nominations for best supporting roles and it will be interesting to see if they both get them. I do think Tommy Lee Jones was particularly good personally and it looked like he enjoyed the role.

Thanks for reading.


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Comments on this review

  • Jamzhouse published 26/06/2014
    Awesome Review. I plan on watching this soon...
  • Absinthe_Fairy published 28/02/2014
    Excellent review.
  • chrisandmark_is_here published 28/02/2014
    Super review, I really fancy seeing this one x
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Product Information : Lincoln (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Video Category: Feature Film

Director(s) (Last name, First name): Spielberg, Steven

Classification: 12 years and over

Production Year: 2012


Listed on Ciao since: 04/03/2013