It starts off slow, but ends with a bang.
This is the one everyone and their mother was talking about. The tale of January 1865, and Lincoln’s attempt to pass the 13th Amendment through Congress and end slavery forever. Structurally, the film is very good. It is well directed, well shot, and has a great script. The one glaring flaw is the ending. There is a segment that runs a few minutes long depicting his death, and a scene from his last inauguration. I consider them to be quite out of place with the rest of the film. I know it seems counter intuitive to make a Lincoln film without the assassination, but this is not a comprehensive look at his life. It’s focus is One Month in the man’s life, and a short denouement in early April 1865 as the war officially ends. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but I think it was a misstep.
What sets this film apart from the rest of the pack are the actors.
Daniel Day Lewis
This is probably my favorite depiction of Lincoln, ever. Seeing as Lewis shares some screen time with Hal Holbrook, who made a career of playing Lincoln, this is no small achievement. Much is made of his method acting, and the lengths to which he goes to bring a character to life. If it did not work, he would be labeled crazy and forgotten by the world. Fortunately for us, and him, it works wonderfully. You believe he is Lincoln. The actor vanishes and the 16th President appears. Of all I have seen so far, he deserves the Best Actor Oscar. I cannot see him losing.
Sally has still got it. She portrays Mary Todd Lincoln- Abe’s wife. She is vulnerable, strong, and oh so amazing as she suffers through the dark days of the Civil War with her husband. I am not sure if she can overcome the Jessica Chastain train of Zero Dark Thirty, but Sally certainly deserves her place among the Best.
Tommy Lee Jones
As Abolitionist Congressman Stephens, Jones comes close to stealing the film from Lewis, as a proper Supporting Actor should. Tommy does what he does best in this film, he is powerful, fiery, and very dedicated to the cause of ending the stain of slavery forever. His final scenes with his housekeeper are the finest in the film.
There is a virtual cavalcade of talent in every bit part of this movie. James Spader, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jackie Earl Haley, and Jared Harris only to name a few. Spielberg can get the best when he wants them, and it makes a huge difference.
So, how does this compare to the other nominees I have seen?
I still prefer Django to this and Les Miserables for Best Picture. Les Mis was great, and this was a wonderful look at political horse trading in the 19th century, but Django just WENT FOR IT. I still think Inglorious Basterds was better, Django leads the pack for my sensibilities.
Next question: Does Lincoln effect my top 10 list? yes.
op 10 2012: (v4)
2: Django Unchained
4: Moonrise Kingdom
5: Dark Knight Rises
6: Les Miserables
8: The Hunger Games
9: The Artist
10: The Hobbit
As good as Lincoln was, Les Miserables is a better film. Lincoln gets bogged down with vote trading and insider politics, while Les Mis goes to the heart of freedom, sadness, joy, love, all with some amazing set and costuming. Close, but not close enough. Better acting in Lincoln though.
11: Dredd- This was one of my absolute favorite movies of 2012. It had such innovative use of 3D, and really stood out as an excellent comic adaptation. If Zero Dark Thirty and Argo are as good as I’ve been hearing, the Hobbit and Artist may be in trouble. Although, I am considering removing The Artist from the list. While I saw it in 2012, and it was a 2012 domestic wide release- it is officially a 2011 film, and was in last years oscars…hmmm. More on that after the next film.