Film review: Lincoln (4 out of 5 stars)

Director Steven Spielberg is certainly keen on grabbing momentous points in history and presenting them for a mass audience on the big screen.

Tuesday, 29th January 2013, 8:42 am

We’ve had the Holocaust with Schindler’s List, the horror faced by soldiers in World War II with Saving Private Ryan, slavery with Amistad, and his production company look like they will tackle black rights campaigner Martin Luther King at some point.

The abolition of slavery was obviously a major changing point in American history, giving millions of people back their lives.

Spielberg presents the few months before and after this 13th amendment was made to the constitution through the eyes of the man who led the way - president Abraham Lincoln.

The Civil War is raging across America while in the House of Representatives the pro and anti-slavery factions battle away.

While the acting can’t be faulted, this is a movie to be admired rather than enjoyed.

There’s always room for films that rely on character and dialogue rather then action, but they do lose their cinematic value.

The bloody, intense man-to-man fighting and aftermath of a Civil War battle is shown in brief scenes at the start and end of the movie.

The rest is down to the near 150 speaking roles.

At the screening I was at, it proved too much for a few younger members of the audience who didn’t last the 150 minutes (perhaps expecting something more like Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?).

In fact, the film could have ended a few minutes earlier than it did. I’m not sure the Lincoln death scene, though done well, is even necessary.

Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role is as superb as you would expect of a man who chooses his work with extreme care.

Sally Field is also excellent as his wife and Tommy Lee Jones is as good as ever as a major campaigner for the 13th amendment.

There are plenty of smaller roles, though many of these are filled by well-known talent, such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Lincoln’s son), Jared Harris (General Grant) and James Spader (as a lobbyist).

There seems little doubt there will be a bunch of Oscars handed out for Lincoln but I doubt crowds, certainly in this country, will be rushing out to buy the DVD when it arrives.

Overall, it’s an important part of history dealt with due reverence and brillaint skill that probably would have had a massive audience as a TV series.

Film details: Lincoln (12A) 150 mins.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones.

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley

Steve Payne