A scene that I liked was Lincoln speaking to a crowd before the raising of the flag. I liked how in the shot they incorporated the tops of all the mens’ hats. Then, when he rides in the carriage around the town, it allows younger viewers or people who don’t know much about the Civil War and the time period, to see what life was like. The purposeful choice of angles throughout the film is very smart, as Spielberg does and continues to do. When Lincoln is in the study, William Seward smokes a cigar. In a later frame of the same scene the smoke fills the background behind him as the light comes in, creating a stunning shot.
Both the actors and actresses of this film fall perfectly into their roles and this period of time. The dialogue for each character is well thought out for how they would speak and act. For me, Daniel-Day-Lewis stands out as the perfect Lincoln, he captures his essence and even resembles the former president. The film highlights the best of Lincoln and how he was the president for the people. For all people. He believed strongly in his case for the emancipation proclamation, and would stop at nothing to get there which really stands out in the entirety of the film. As the film continues, the character becomes more and more tired and strained from his duties as President. He is stricken with internal conflict between ending the war immediately and abolishing slavery by getting the 13th Amendment signed. Lincoln shows such humanity by even going to the battlegrounds, littered with the dead. He wants nothing more than peace and to see an end to the war. Therefore, is a perfect depiction of such a well rounded character. I am biased towards Sally Field’s work, but she adds such depth to her character that she isn’t simply “Lincoln’s wife” but Mary Todd Lincoln, and she is ruthless and strong. She demonstrates this when talking to the men at the party when she makes sure they call her “Madame President” and not Mrs. Lincoln. Showing that she doesn’t take anything from anyone, even the upper class and the wealthy.
The Oscar winning production design is accurate and detailed from tea cups and scattered paper on the tables to the patterned walls and curtains. Easily, some of the best set design ever seen in a film. Furthermore, you can’t talk set design of this movie and not talk about the boat the River Queen. A beautiful boat, where meetings between the South and the North take place.
The only thing I see fault in is that if you were to know absolutely nothing about the Civil War, this movie might not be right for you. However, maybe this would not interest you if you knew nothing about the war. Additionally, the movie only shows War=War on slavery when there were so many reasons for this war that have been ignored in the film. It also neglects the past three years of the Civil War and fast forwards to the fourth year. So, if you don’t know anything about the war and what sparks it (ie. Missouri Compromise of 1820, Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, etc ) you wouldn’t have that context going into the film. Given it’s about Lincoln I understand it isn’t a movie about the Civil War however, that’s an important part of his presidency and it could at least be addressed. It also focuses a lot on his colleagues of the government and their opinions too much. Thus, is the only place it fails to me as a truly perfect film.
My favourite scenes in the entire movie are in the house of representatives, with creative and breathtaking shots, cinematography, dialogue, and incredible set design. These scenes make his movie a truly great film. It is also humorous how the men on the balcony criticize the men below them. The comedic back and forth between the characters becomes a powerful part of the film. It helps you to understand the views of the two sides and how completely split the two sides on slavery really are. Obviously we live in a time where no one experienced the Civil War and the baggage that came with it.
I really like how they use the place and dates on the screen to understand the timeline. For example, “No Man's Land - Outside Petersburg, Virginia on January 11th” or how they put their names and position such as “Judge John A. Campbell - Secretary of War-Confederate States of America”. I think it adds context to who they are or where they are without the characters having to announce it as if they didn’t know who they were meeting with or where they were. Also since these are real people in history, it was good to include them in a time where they were involved.
An important dynamic is between Lincoln and his son, Robert. Robert is ambitious and wants to enlist in the military. Mary is distraught when she even thinks of Robert dying in the war efforts. Lincoln and her yell at each other, backing up their strong and different point of views with that of raw emotion. Even though Lincoln does not want him to go to war, he also sees how much it hurts his son, which makes him feel guilty. Especially, since the war is something he has the power to stop, he feels like it is his responsibility to protect him from what is out there.
Another prominent scene is when Lincoln waits patiently in silence to hear if the voting has allowed for the amendment to be passed. The use of sound is an important feature here. Complete silence. Then, the courtroom bursts into joy of its passing and celebration. I think this is key to the celebration of Lincoln’s efforts and success. Then, Thaddeus Stevens brings the bill back to his home to show his housekeeper. This is a heartwarming scene and shows how it affects everyone, even those not represented and why this bill was so important to Stevens.
I think it was smart that they didn’t show Lincoln’s assassination. It would have been unnecessary to the plot and taken away from the story of what he did and the legacy he left behind. This movie was to highlight his actions and his words, not how he died.
To conclude, this film is well done with well thought out cinematography, directing, acting, production design, and story. Therefore, a well rounded film on all fronts. It highlights the legacy and the strengths of a great man of American history, and is arguably not over dramatized or inaccurate.