Lincoln movie review – an FAQ

lincoln-movie-posterLincoln is the newest jam by director Steven Spielberg, which stars “he who disappears into every role and pulls them off without fail” Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.  While the movie is well done (and such a welcome change from a visual perspective after the close-up shot tyranny of Les Mis), the movie might generate some confusion, so I’ve put together this Frequently Asked Questions post that should clear everything up.  Score, trailer and FAQ after the jump…In case you could give two poops about the FAQ, here’s my score:  7.5 out of 10.

Now, on to the questions (in bold) and the answers (in plain text)!

spoiler alert

It this a biopic about Abraham Lincoln?
No, not at all.

So the why’s it called Lincoln?  Doesn’t titling the movie ‘Lincoln‘ sorta imply that it’s a biopic?
I think so, but here we are.

So what’s this flick about, anyway?
The passing of the 13th Amendment.

The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery.

Right, right, that 13th Amendment.  Gotcha.  So… the movie is about passing a law?  Not about slavery or the civil war?
Well, the Civil War is going on during the movie, and you kinda see it happening in the background…  There’s one quick battle scene and another tour of a battle scene after the battle is over, but that’s it.  I don’t recall seeing any slaves in the movie, but it’s clear that there is certainly a class divide between blacks and whites, even in Washington.

So the movie is about passing a law.
You got it.

That… sounds very dramatic.
Yeah, it’s not, really.  Whoever wrote this screenplay (Tony Kushner, John Logan, Doris Kearns Goodwin) obviously didn’t watch much West Wing or The American President, but I guess it’s easier to inject drama into fictitious situations.

Is the movie boring?
I wouldn’t say that.  However, it should be clear that this is a movie about people sitting around and talking – or, standing around and talking.  I would say that the movie doesn’t have much of a second act – it always seems like the vote is going to be close, but it never really seems like the Amendment won’t get passed.  It might have helped if they could have better illustrated the amendments opponents and if we could have seen them working a bit more to prevent the passage of the bill – that might have helped.
Also, the performances are outstanding, so that helps a lot.

How did Spielberg do?
Eh, about the same as always.  I wouldn’t say he did anything especially memorable with the camera… he did do this one weird cross dissolve of lamp wick burning that imposed Lincoln speaking on top of the fade and then dissolved into him giving his Inaugural Address.  I guess they were trying to do an eternal flame thing…  it didn’t work for me.

Wait a sec – eternal flame?  Is the assassination in the movie?
Yes and no.

Oy, I know.  For some reason known only to those who worked on the film, there’s this misdirection where we see Lincoln leaving the White House to go to the theater.  Cut to people acting on a stage, but it’s not Our American Cousin (the play Lincoln was watching when he was shot), but some crazy thing where people are sword fighting and crazy stuff is happening.  I guess Lincoln and his wife went to see Our American Cousin and they sent their kid to see a different play – which something I’m sure parents still do with their kids now.    Anyway, the curtain suddenly goes down and this guy comes out and announces “The President has been shot!” and the kid starts screaming and holding on the balcony for some reason.  It’s weird.

What was the point of that?
I have no idea.  I think they should have either put the assassination into the movie or not, but don’t do this silly misdirection thing at the end of a somewhat stuffy movie about passing a law.

Is the idea to imply that Lincoln was assassinated because of the Amendment?
I guess.  But then, it’s not like people weren’t already pissed at him before the amendment was even first brought up, so who the hell knows.  John Wilkes Booth was certainly against the Amendment and the abolishment of slavery, but I don’t know.  John Wilkes Booth isn’t in the movie.

John Wilkes Booth isn’t in a movie during which President Lincoln is assassinated – which is not shown on-screen – in a movie titled Lincoln, which is a movie that is running short on drama?

No idea.

OK, let me ask a trivial question.  Is this a typical John Williams score?
Oh hells no.

Typical Williams:


Williams sat way back.  He’ll suddenly pop up in the middle of someone speech, and it’s about as subtle as a cockroach crawling across a white rug, even though he’s very quietly feathering in an oboe or something.  It just doesn’t work.  And the main theme borrows from his JFK theme in a few spots – it’s kinda like he took the march out of JFK and made some tweaks.  OK, I’m being harsh – it’s not as though it’s the same melody, but it’s certainly from the same bag.

How Daniel Day-Lewis is Daniel Day-Lewis in this flick?
Beyond awesome.  Everyone is good in it, but Day-Lewis is on another level.

What’s your overall impression of the flick?
It’s good, no doubt about that.  I’ll just reiterate that there’s not much drama to be found here and all of the performances are often.  The movie does do a very good job of bringing Lincoln to life – everything I’ve read about it.  He was funny, he liked to tell stories, he liked to make jokes when he could and he hated to raise his voice but would.  I liked the movie a lot, but the second act is lacking and those last two minutes or so were ridiculous.  There was a perfect moment to end the movie and Spielberg let it pass and went on with that which didn’t fit in this movie, adding maybe three more minutes that we just didn’t need.

So everyone should go see it or not?
I’m sure a lot of people don’t like the idea of going to see a movie where people sit around and talk for two and  half hours, and I can’t begrudge them that.  It’s a good movie, but it’s not perfect.  There is plenty to look at, and the sets are awesome, but I’m not sure if people need to see this in the theater – it’s probably fine to wait till home video or whatever it’s called these days.  But yeah, at some point, almost everyone should check this out, as long as they know what they’re getting into – a long movie where people talk in both standing and sitting positions.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on January 20, 2013, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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