‘Lincoln’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated November 16th, 2012 at 11:29 am,

Lincoln 2012 Review starring Daniel Day Lewis Tomy Lee Jones and Sally Field Lincoln Review

It seems that the legend of Abraham Lincoln is as prominent as ever in our cultural zeitgeist. The last year has brought us tale of “Honest Abe’s” secret war against the undead (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)  - and now, with Steven Speilberg’s Lincoln, Academy Award-Winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis attempts to convey the weight of burden the 16th President endured as he tried to pass the infamous Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States.

Along the path to that historic achievement, we get brushstrokes of Lincoln’s life between 1864 and 1865 (his final year) – including the complicated relationship with wife Mary Todd (Sally Field) and sons Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tad (Gulliver McGrath). Outside of the personal, we also get an intricate look at Washington politics of the late nineteenth century – and all the eerie ways in which that era resonates with our own.

The title Lincoln might suggest a broad and sweeping look at the life of a historic legend – but in fact, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is more of a “biopic” than this film is. Spielberg’s Lincoln is a memoir (based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln) dressed up as political drama. There is much about the film that will intrigue and amuse (more on that later), but there is little that will “excite,” as Lincoln is, ostensibly, a sequence of static, dialogue-driven scenes. As a whole, the movie is more stage play than cinema, with a nice amount of humor rising out of the ironically-reversed context of politics in that era. (For example, “conservative Republicans” of the time were anti-slavery “progressive radicals” we’d now associate with liberal Democrats.)

Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln 2012 Lincoln Review

Tommy Lee Jones in ‘Lincoln’

Most surprising about the film is how very “un-Spielbergian” it is. The director’s usual signature – over-dramatized scenes punctuated with rousing musical scores – is  largely absent from the proceedings. In its place is a quiet, stripped-down approach, which both captures the rustic feel of the period in a genuine way, and allows the ensemble of actors free space in which to engage with one another. The overall sense  of stillness throughout many scenes is akin to watching a high-production stage play – which might throw-off some viewers who are expecting the sweeping movement of a biopic – and the technique works (for the most part), given the level of talent in the cast.

Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the role of Lincoln completely and thoroughly. While the big speech monologues are great, it’s the little touches that Day-Lewis adds to his portrayal that make all the difference, creating an image of Lincoln that is at once human, but still larger-than-life.  We see the President as a quiet, almost zen-like figure – unassuming enough to go unnoticed in a room, but simultaneously shrewd enough to hold that same room’s attention with one of his zen-wisdom parables, delivered in the style of an old man’s doddering anecdotes. The actor’s choice of mannerisms, voice, and delivery are likely to become synonymous with Abraham Lincoln; we may never know what the man was actually like in person, but this portrayal suffices pretty well in reality’s stead.

Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Review

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

Even the physicality is there: a tall, lanky, imposing figure who walks soft with the hobbling step of a weary ghost – fragile, vulnerable, sturdy and statuesque. Most of the time, Day-Lewis conveys the patience of a wise old grandfather enduring a petulant child (anti-abolitionist  mentality)  - but in several key scenes, the actor reveals a burning core that powers the idealist, instantly transforming him into a commanding figure – ready to break laws or compromise his morals when/where needed for the greater good – who can believably sway an entire nation to move in a seemingly impossible direction. It’s an awards-worthy performance, for sure.

The rest of the ensemble is made up of a cornucopia of familiar character actors and stars, including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, James Spader, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, Jackie Earle Haley, Gloria Reuben, Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire), Luke Haas (Brick), Walton Goggins (Justified) and Jared Harris (Mad Men) as General Ulysses S. Grant. Rising stars also get brief moments to shine, including David Oyelowo (Red Tails), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), David Costabile (Breaking Bad) and Adam Driver (Girls). The ensemble, as a whole, functions well and keeps careful viewers occupied with an eye-spy game that offers many self-satisfying rewards. Standouts are Lee-Jones as the cantankerous equality idealist Thaddeus Stevens, Field as Lincoln’s (bi-polar?) wife, and the hilarious trio of Spader, Hawkes and Nelson as nineteenth century-style lobbyists working under the table for the Lincoln administration.

Sally Field in Lincoln 2012 Lincoln Review

Sally Field in ‘Lincoln’

As stated, Lincoln is a movie of words, more than action. Aside from an opening sequence depicting the horror of a Civil War battlefield, the film is almost exclusively scenes of 19th century political theater. This will, inevitably, make it boring for some viewers whose tastes tend to skew away from this sort of genre. The movie can feel a little meandering and uneven at times (scenes of Lincoln’s personal life, for example, get somewhat overblown and soapy) – and in terms of traditional character arc Lincoln is not very satisfying. Tony Kushner’s (Munich) script leaves several story threads untied, but does manage to tie others off with nice surprise.

In its closing act, the Lincoln manages to capture the grandeur of the president’s great accomplishment – with Daniel Day-Lewis largely off screen, ironically enough. Though history already foretells the ending, seeing how close the determination of the nation’s fate actually was is still a tense experience – in no small part because the chords are so connected to the current political climate we live in. In the end, oddly enough, there is still a sense of mystery surrounding the man himself; after more than two hours we still come away wondering about what went on behind those weary, compassionate eyes, which were so attuned to a vision only he could see.

Lincoln is easily recommendable to those hoping for an intriguing and wittily-humorous look at a very pivotal (and still very relevant) point in U.S. history. Those hoping for a more expansive look at the celebrated figure, or a film that better captures the reality of war during that era, best look elsewhere. However, one thing we should all be able to agree on: Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance makes this a sure-fire contender come awards season.

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Lincoln is playing in limited release; it expands to wide release on November 16, 2012. It is Rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language.

 

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

TAGS: lincoln

86 Comments

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  1. Spielberg at it again. Good review kofi. Will check it out later on. :)

  2. So this movie does not mention at all that Lincoln was in fact a War Criminal that wiped his butt with the Constitution and wanted to free the slaves only to then send them back to Africa? No thanks, not really interested in idolizing Lincoln who was in fact a worse person then those he was fighting, only if the Vampires would have won in the last movie.

    • You’re kidding, right?

      • He may have took a really low blow approach to his comment but he is in fact correct for the most part. As soon as i saw the trailer i could tell this was how people idolize lincoln. He did indeed win the war and abolish slavery. Even though that wasn’t what he wanted to do. He basically said that if he had the oppertunity to stop the war and keep slavery he would. He is a politician but not as great as everyone thinks. As expected spielberg seems to undercut the facts and keep it clean. Spielberg doesnt have the balls to show the bad/racist side of one of our greatest presidents.

        • I’m not saying Lincoln was perfect or noble or even completely altruistic or progressive in his thinking or his plans for slavery or the nation. He, however, was definitely NOT a “War Criminal that wiped his butt with the Constitution”, and he was BY NO STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION worse than those against whom he fought. Realist did not merely have a “low blow approach”; he was simply wrong.

          Yes, one of Lincoln’s primary and initial plans was to end slavery by sending the black populace back to Africa (an unwise, unworkable idea to say the least, especially considering that many slaves did not even come from Africa), but he was, in his mind, being a pragmatist and trying to find solutions to very dramatic and serious problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. He made mistakes, but he was NEVER the evil incarnate that Realist made him out to be.

          So, NO, Realist was not correct for the most part…or much of anymore than the absolute minimal part.

          • @Archaeon

            THANK YOU! Someone here knows what they are talking about! Great comment :)

          • I’m ashamed to share my screen name with this dude…I’m changing it to my other accounts’ name now – from now on I shall be called TheAdditional1!

        • It is out of sheer ignorance (ironically) that people dismiss Lincoln as racist. Consider the period in which he lived. Slavery pervaded society; it was ubiquitous, its roots going back centuries. To label a person racist when he or she grew up in said era is as laughable as it is misguided. Do you realize how difficult it would be to think outside the box when that’s all you knew?
          People fail to take into account the spectrum of emotions regarding slavery, its breadth and depth. The issue of slavery was so divisive, so ingrained in the nation’s psyche, it tore the country apart in more ways than North and South: it caused elder statesmen to weep openly when faced with the prospect of secession; Robert E. Lee had to decline Lincoln’s request to command the Union army because he could not fathom the idea of fighting against Virginia; before Jefferson Davis became the first (and only) president of the Confederacy, he was a respected Senator and statesmen; Mary Todd had family that sympathized with the South.
          It would be easy to simply divide people into two groups-pro-slavery and abolitionist-but that fails to capture the nature of the conflict. There were too many shades of grey. It also fails to delineate the evolution of Lincoln from self-motivated lawyer to dynamic senator and venerable President. Yes, at one point Lincoln favored sending freed slaves to Liberia; but give him some credit for acknowledging the errors in his reasoning. When he decided to pursue the emancipation of slaves, he did so wholeheartedly. It was not disingenuous. If it was, then Frederick Douglass would not have held him in such high esteem.

          • Exactly.

          • Actually Lincoln offered freedom to slaves so they could turn on their masters and was just as much against the idea of co-existing as most of the people in that time were. Him wanting to send the slaves off is proof of that fact.

            • Not quite.

      • You do understand this line of thinking is being taught in our Universities today? Just imagine how little patriotism will be left in another 50 years after the centers for higher learning complete their trashing of our forefathers.

    • You mean, you think Lincoln is a war criminal like General Wesley Clark or Madeline Albright? Look son, Lincoln ordered his generals to pillage the south, but the actions of the commanding officers AT that time were out of his control.

      BUT it won the war…. It inspired some great generals of the latter years. Otherwise we’d all be speaking German or Japanese. If it were not for the methods of General Patton, MacArthur or freaking Walton Walker, you wouldn’t be able to say the stupid **** you’re saying. You’d probably be dragged out of your home and shot in the street. You’d be THANKFUL for the methods Lincoln allowed to happen.

      You sir have a twisted mentality.

      • Ich spreche ein wenig Deutsche

      • aber nicht Japanisch

      • I cringe whenever somebody says “if it weren’t for so-and-so, we’d all be speaking German and Japanese right now”.

        Well, no different from those who invaded the Americas (North, Central and South), arriving from various parts of Europe and ensuring that English and Spanish would become the main languages of the Americas, before doing there best to eradicate the native tongues of the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas and the imprisoned newcomers from Africa.

        Native American culture has survived reasonably well to this day, but how many Americans of African descent do you know who can speak a language other than English (and by that I mean a language from Africa)? The survival of African culture in the Americas was made much more difficult because the Africans who were taken from their home continent were transplanted peoples.

        You can’t sit there griping and moaning about how “we’d all be speaking German and Japanese” when the fact that you’re an English-speaking American is a product of numerous other “conquests” over the course of history. Besides, there is an old saying, “history is written by the victors”. Think about that.

    • @Realist

      Ah, another student of revisionist history, yes Lincoln was a monster, he never did anything good, he was worse then Stalin and Hitler combined. Thank God he was murdered before he took over the whole world.

    • He was also a racist … and his ‘freeing’ of the slaves only counted in the confederate states. He didn’t free those in the union states where slavery continued.

      Somehow I doubt either of these things will be reflected in the movie … so the whitewashed image of Lincoln lives on in film.

      • … or if it is mentioned in the film it’ll probably be glossed over as insignificant.

      • He actually was NOT a racist. At worst, he was a pragmatist who realized his initial assessment of the situation was incorrect and changed accordingly.

        • Actually, he *was* a racist who *might* have reformed … naturally, because of who he is and what happened to him, his racism is deemed excusable by some.

          But Lincoln’s racism, and his selective ‘freeing’ of the slaves are a tarnish – albeit a well-hidden one – on his reputation that should be portrayed honestly if we are to get a clear picture of this man. Alas, this is generally not the case most of the time.

          • No, Lincoln was a man who was faced with massive social, economic, and political difficulties and considered many plans for dealing with them in the most effective possible ways…including, at one point, send all slaves “back” to Africa. He held no particular animosity toward blacks or anyone else in any sort of subservient position.

            I’m unsure about the source of such rabidly WRONG information, but Lincoln was NOT a racist by any definition of the word.

            • By the way, as Lincoln is one of the most written-about people in the world, we have more than enough evidence of the type of man he was AND the type of man he became. He was shown to be a man who did not look down at people different from him (politicians, of course, being the one major exception, as they proved to be a different sort of animal altogether).

              Admittedly, Lincoln, like many others of his time, was uncertain WHAT to make of slaves, but all evidence indicates he felt no hatred of the people themselves.

              • “Lincoln was NOT a racist by any definition of the word.”

                Racist: a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.

                As shown below, he did indeed fit the definition. It’s just not politically or socially convenient to actually point this out.

                =====

                “He was shown to be a man who did not look down at people different from him”

                He has been shown to hold racist sentiments, as seen in quotes likes this:

                “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

                “I’m unsure about the source of such rabidly WRONG information, but Lincoln was NOT a racist by any definition of the word.”

                Racist: a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.

                As shown below, he did indeed fit the definition. It’s just not politically or socially convenient to actually, you know, make it known to the masses. And the source of this information was his own words.

                =====

                “He was shown to be a man who did not look down at people different from him”

                He has been shown to hold racist sentiments, as seen in quotes likes this:

                [quote]I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.[/quote]

                [quote]What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races.[/quote]

                [quote]But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of Slavery and the colored race as a basis, the war could not have an existence.

                It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.[/quote]

                • Oops – don’t know how that double-posting thing happened …

  3. I’m looking forward to seeing both this and “Skyfall” this weekend. I can’t wait to see Lincoln, through the prism of Day-Lewis, commanding the screen.

    • Same here.If my theater does have Lincoln,I’ll probably try to sneak into it after Skyfall.

  4. I take back what I said when the Trailer was first released. This film was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD and very close to be historically accurate. There were a couple scenes that bothered me, but, overall, it’s a good effort.

    This is definitely a movie you don’t want to turn down.

  5. I saw this last night.
    I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t win best picture, and DDL doesn’t win best actor.
    I found it more moving than Schindler’s List.
    I was literally moved to tears in the final act.
    Easily the best movie Ive seen all year, [yes, even better than TDKR & The Avengers]

    I can understand why this was postponed until after the election. The “reversal” is more than a little unsettling.
    I know there are those that criticize Lincoln the man, or Lincoln the President, and I don’t want to go into the “he did what he felt was right” argument, though I have strong feelings about it….if we’re to stick strictly to a review of the film, a review of the performances by the actors – [male and female], a review of the cinematography, or subdued score…

    I’d have to say that it is nothing short of a masterpiece. An Epic film by an Epic Directory, based on an Epic true story, of the struggles of an Epic human being in passing an Epic amendment, the impact of which is felt not only in these United States, but all over the world today.

  6. “the infamous Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States” I found infamous to be a strange adjective used for the Constitutionl Amendment that abolished slavery.

    in·fa·mous
    1. Having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious.
    2. Causing or deserving infamy; heinous: an infamous deed.
    3. Law
    a. Punishable by severe measures, such as death, long imprisonment, or loss of civil rights.
    b. Convicted of a crime, such as treason or felony, that carries such a punishment.

    • Rob V – Please quote me fully, sir:

      “Academy Award-Winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis attempts to convey the weight of burden the 16th President endured as he tried to pass the infamous Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States.”

      That was me laying out the context of the movie’s world, in which the Thirteenth Amendment WAS infamous.

      It is not my personal opinion of the Amendment, which has no place in a film review.

      Sorry for any confusion.

  7. Would you say this movie has good acting but little plot? I mean what exactly is it about?

    • It is about the last year of his life, and his behind-closed-doors fight to manipulate The House of Representatives into passing the very unpopular 13th Amendment.

  8. This out to the writer of this review “Kofi Outlaw” Great review man! Greatly enjoyed the imagery you painted with the words. This my kind of movie can’t wait to see it. Thanks!

  9. Good Review Kofi.
    I just saw it .
    Your description of the film was spot on.
    Leaving the theatre, i got the feeling some people in the audience were expecting a traditional biopic.
    But, i was really interested In Spielbergs approach.
    DEFINITELY a 4 star film.
    I hope it does well.

  10. Isn’t it Sally Field? Not Fields?

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000398/

    • Ah, thanks sir.

  11. It is hard to read remarks born in utter ignorance. For the person who derides Lincoln and suggest that he wanted to send slaves back to Africa – if you have read any of the 500 or so biographies of Lincoln, including revisionists, you’d know how much you are out of context. Lincoln want to stop the expansion of slavery and considered all means of doing this. Then, he hoped that slavery would end in time. In the context of his era, this was radical enough. He wasn’t an abolitionist, but he wanted to avoid a civil war. When it came anyway, he moved to end slavery once and for all. And, he was murdered for it.

    How brave are you? Have you risked your life for a good cause lately?

    Read Frederick Douglas on Lincoln. he pulls know punches, but, in the end, holds Lincoln in the highest regard.
    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?documentprint=39

    • Great Post Peter!

    • Excellent comment.

  12. I hate to rain politics on your crazy parade but the Democrats have always been against civil rights. Most of the south is Democrats and has always been so. Slavery, women voting, civil rights, all were opposed by the Democrats.

    • Both the Republican and Democratic party have evolved so much since their creation, it is hardly fair to claim that one party has a history of something and therefore is hypocritical for their current stances, especially in terms of civil rights. And you are greatly mistaken if you believe the southern states are mostly Democrats as of right now, especially after this past election.

    • Actually, you might want to check both current history AND current geopoplitical maps, Jeff. Neither of your statements is true in the modern era of politics. The Democrats and Republicans were, indeed, quite different in Lincoln’s time and DID reflect what you’ve stated in in your response. They no longer are are. As for the state distribution, the South skews Republican very strongly and has for years…although statistics for this last presidential election DO indicate that cracks are forming in the South’s facade.

      Your information is exceedingly outdated.

      I like the rain btw…it’s not always necessary, but it IS refreshing. ;)

      As for the parade, there was nothing crazy about it.

    • It is true that compared to Democrat politicians who voted on civil rights in the mid-1900s, Republicans had a far larger percentage of votes in favor: 80%+ compared to 60%-something among Dems. I have not read the stats breakdown on women’s voting rights.

  13. As mentioned, and well-enough known, Lincoln wanted to “preserve” the Union, with or without slavery. This should have been the premise and narrative mission of Spielberg’s film, but that takes balls and risk, which a good filmmaker might have but a GREAT filmmaker must have.

    • The film was adapted from a book (someone else’s work, in other words) and is about Lincoln’s dealing with a further complication to his attempt to repair the nation…AFTER the Civil War. Thus, your commentary on how good or great Spielberg is as a director is invalid.

  14. Saw this last night and the movie was just amazing. I think a lot of the people that went in were expecting a traditional biopic but Speilberg and DDL just knocked this film out of the ballpark. This is easily one of the best films this year. Sally Fields was just awesome and I just couldn’t find anything wrong with this entire film. The ending was just emotional. Wow, DDL is just such a great actor.

  15. Wow, probably should visit the theatre after all.. I’m kinda… intrigued…

  16. Wow, probably should visit the theater after all.. I’m kinda… intrigued..

  17. Good review, but why are you making excuses for its lack of blockbuster action or special effects?

    I haven’t yet seen the film but I found Team of Rivals to be thrilling, and can’t wait to see this pivotal period in our history – not to mention what sounds like THE definitive portrayal of Abraham Lincoln – on film.

    The goal isn’t a great action film, it’s a great film, and great drama can be as exciting as any explosion. If people lack the attention span for anything but a Michael Bay film, they deserve our sympathy, not excuses.

  18. Ok. Many of you are misinterpreting quotes spoken by Lincoln. While it is true that he stated “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it,” one must consider the FULL context of what the President was writing about.

    In this oft-quoted letter to the New York Tribune, Lincoln stressed that his duties as a political leader during a time of national turmoil and civil war held precedence over his own personal views on morality. His point was, as the elected President of the United States, he was entrusted with maintaining the solidity of the Union first and foremost. His closing statement in this VERY SAME LETTER shows how torn he was:

    “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.”

    Clearly, in his heart of hearts Lincoln wanted to see an end to slavery. What makes him a most compelling, intensely complicated individual is that he was the President of America during the greatest era of chaos and unrest that this country has ever had to forebear. To critize him after taking several quotes out of context is unfair and invalid.

    It is true that Lincoln attempted several colonization efforts for freed African-Americans, but not on the basis of contempt or disdain for them. He realized how difficult it would be to heal the wounds inflicted upon Black men and women that were subjected to the worst kind of suffering and injustice. Indeed – it has taken us a very long time as a nation to learn to coexist with people of different race and ethnicity – even today it can be argued that we’re not 100% there. While I don’t agree with Lincoln’s efforts at colonization, I would not vilify him for it; he truly understood how difficult the transition would be.

    As with all human beings, Lincoln was not a saint. He wasn’t perfect. But to call him a war criminal or a racist is grossly inaccurate. In order to fully understand historical events, one most understand history first.

    • By the way – here is a most illuminating Lincoln quote, spoken even before he was President:

      Of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed states to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery, Lincoln stated, “I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.”

      • Nick…

        Beautifully stated.

        Cyn…

        Did you read the above?

        • Comments made about Spielberg’s cinematic translation of President Abraham Lincoln is not a validation of his skill as a director but his courage as a filmmaker; not by any means an indictment or exoneration of President during racial strife (and economic chaos) during the Civil War, but the decision to avoid the greater conundrum facing the 16th Commander-in-Chief, that of preserving the Union in the face of continuing slavery. Passing the 13th Amendment “freed” the slaves, only for Negroes (as they were called) to face 100 years of lynching, between 1882 and 1920 approximately 350 lynchings, which were chronic until 1967, roughly. Lincoln’s contemplation to end slavery by deporting the Africans then choosing to heed his “better Angels” would have been as compelling, if not far more, than the melodrama Spielberg elected to dramatize instead. Spielberg’s choice, like Lincoln’s, is individual but informative.

          • Ah, but there’s the rub. Spielberg adapted a book, so he was limited in what he could bring to the fore as a film.

    • “Clearly, in his heart of hearts Lincoln wanted to see an end to slavery.”

      Actually, it’s not clear. He spoke out of two sides of his mouth. And he indicated racist sentiments in his comments (so it’s not grossly inaccurate to call him a racist). It’s the reality of what he said. And that reality isn’t as pretty as people would like to pretend, no matter how much they dress it up. So for many people it’s best to just … act like it never happened.

      • We all know that if anyone else had uttered such words, they would be easily branded a racist. Lincoln should not be above the accusation either. He was a product of his time, and like many people back in the day he felt that black people were inferior. That is the definition of a racist.

  19. Cyn states:

    “Actually, it’s not clear [whether or not Lincoln opposed slavery.]”

    Quite the contrary. Of the various points of contention regarding Lincoln’s views towards Blacks, this is a very cut-and-dry issue.

    In a letter to a slave owner in Kentucky, year 1855:

    “You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border.”

    Also, from the same letter:

    “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty.”

    April 1864:

    “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.”

    Before being elected President, in 1860:

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe that this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”

    March, 1865:

    “Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

    October 1854:

    “What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle – the sheet anchor of American republicanism.”

    1860:

    “We think slavery a great moral wrong.”

    1859:

    “I think slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.”

    1862:

    “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”

    1858:

    “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

    1858:

    “I did say, at Chicago, in my speech there, that I do wish to see the spread of slavery arrested and to see it placed where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction.”

    1854:

    “Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature – opposition to it, is his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.”

    1858:

    “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”

    “I have always hated slavery, I think as much as any abolitionist.”

    “This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave.”

    1854:

    “I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world.”

    Those are merely a handful of quotes that I readily found; there are many more that substantiate my argument. Lincoln’s personal views of slavery are clear. I could not find a single quote that contradicted these personal opinions. Before the Civil War, his political position for the eradication of slavery was to forbid its spread into new states, trusting that it would die out in the South. It’s clear that he did this as states began spilling over into the Confederacy; Lincoln feared that the border states would rebel if he threatened to eradicate the institution of slavery unilaterally. Once the Union began showing signs that it would be victorious in the war, Lincoln felt confident enough to unveil his Emancipation Proclamation, which satisfied his personal dislike of slavery.

    While your view of Lincoln as a racist stands on tenuous ground, at best, but your view that he was not against the institution of slavery is just utterly incorrect. If you’re going to kick dirt on one of our country’s greatest heroes, you might want to do your homework first.

    • Nick…

      I don’t think that anything anyone says will convince Cyn, or those who think as he does, that Lincoln was NOT a racist…no matter how much logic or how many quotations from his adulthood are presented. That is a shame, as they choose to tarnish an image that while not perfect does NOT deserve such an attitude.

    • He wasn’t the hero he’s portrayed as being. His selective freeing of the slaves and his racist sentiments speak volumes – no matter how much his story has been whitewashed. Or how ardently he’s defended.

      • “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” eh Cyn?

        • LOL…

        • ““Don’t confuse me with the facts,” eh Cyn?”

          I am not the one who’s confused. ;-)

          • Yes, you really are. ;)

            • Nope, I’m really not. :D

              • I was browsing this page since I just wanted to have an idea of the movie before I watch it. I’m not American but you don’t need to be American to hear about Abraham Lincoln but I have read your little debate and it has been interesting. I honestly am not very knowledgeable about him. But from what I can gather, I think he is against slavery but it doesn’t follow that he isn’t racist. From a quote from Cyn

                I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.

                I’m not taking sides. I’m not judging Lincoln because I am honestly not familiar with the atmosphere he grew up with and so to judge him would be unfair. I’m just honestly saying what I got from your debate from a stranger point-of-view. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see the movie ha.

                • You really are going to want to read the quotations and other facts brought up by Nick B. and many others before you decide that Cyn or any of his ilk are in the slightest bit right about Lincoln.

                  Just a suggestion…

  20. I saw Lincoln yesterday, and I have to say it was just fabulous. It’s beautiful to look at, both in costume and sets. While all the performances were excellent, I predict that Danial Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones will both be up for the Oscar. Sally Field was great in her role but I don’t see a nomination simply because she is not on screen for long. After all, this is a snapshot of the last year of his life so the focus is on the amendment and the war – which was a mans game at the time.

    If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it!

  21. Those who define Lincoln by earlier quotes accepting slavery are completely missing the political complexity of the time (and the brilliance he demonstrated in his timing). Pre-Civil War, even the vast majority of northerners were against abolition, fearing it would be devastating to the nation and its economy (which it was).

    I don’t say this to justify it, but to show that a candidate for national office in any state who broadly claimed that slavery was an abomination and needed to be eradicated had NO chance of winning (or even of being taken seriously). Just as Clinton and Obama had to hedge past language about gay marriage, Lincoln had to initially speak about containment, rather than abolition, in order to gain support.

    But when later given the choice of ending the war earlier (by leaving slavery, which would likely bring more conflict in the future) or of ending slavery once and for all (even if it meant continuing the war), he knew the timing was right and did what had to be done.

    None of us can know his mind, but to write Lincoln off as a ‘racist’ implies a serious lack of understanding of history as well as political maneuvering.

    • Matt – you said it better than I could!

    • Matt…

      Simply…YES.

    • It is interesting to see how hard people try to spin him into sainthood. All those mental gymnastics must be exhausting.

      Then there was his close association with Marxists/Communists that leave much to be desired … not many people know about that part of his hidden past either.

      • NO ONE has been saying Lincoln was saint by any stretch of the word…or of the imagination. We have used history AND Lincoln’s own quotations to show that you are off-base. Methinks your own mental gymnastics MUST be proving at least somewhat stressful. You are, of course, welcome to TRY and show that Lincoln was a Communist, now that your battle strategy of quotations on slavery has fallen apart.

        Go ahead…have at it.

        • It hasn’t fallen apart. He said what he said, and he was what he was – a racist who used slavery to his political advantage. The excuses made on his behalf don’t strengthen your argument in his favor – they merely show he was just another political animal and not the mythical hero people would like to believe he was.

          As far as his and the Republican Party’s communist ties back in the day – that is easy to find out with some research. Go ahead … check it out sometime. I’m sure effort will be made to excuse that away too, though.

  22. Steven Spielberg used only the latter portion of the book “Team of Rivals” for his film…and, of course, he’s STEVEN SPIELBERG, which means he can make any damn movie he chooses. The director–no director–is limited to the author’s narrative. The filmmaker had a golden opportunity to present “the prequel” of events (if you will) to show the heavy decision process/chaos of continuing slavery to preserve the Union then listening to his better angels yet knowing a freed slave will face many/most in a nation unprepared for such emancipation. Here, HERE is the drama, the cinema…and the history.

    • Again, you miss the point. No matter HOW much of the book is adapted, it is adapted…This means that a certain period of time and a specific narrative thread are being used. This is not cowardice; this is focus. Various aspects of both Lincoln’s life and the Civil War have been translated to film. THIS film is one adaptation that has NOT been widely viewed before.

  23. Actually, Cyn, I’m intrigued, I read a fair amount of history, but I know nothing of Lincoln’s close association with Communism/Marxism, fifty years before the Russian Revolution.

    A quick search just showed that the first edition of Das Kapital was published in 1867, two years after Lincoln’s death, but I’d definitely be curious to hear the specifics of what you’re talking about.

    Certainly, anyone making a serious argument wouldn’t just throw out some conspiracy theory and say, “look it up…” That just sounds like someone with an agenda.

    Anyway, please feel free to elaborate.

    • Matt, you continue to impress.

      Cyn, your sources…?

      I’ve tried TWICE to respond with longer comments and been told both times that my statements are spam. I’ll save myself further irritation for the moment.

    • “Certainly, anyone making a serious argument wouldn’t just throw out some conspiracy theory and say, “look it up…””

      Of course they would – especially if they are too busy at the moment to do the research for others.

      =====

      “I know nothing of Lincoln’s close association with Communism/Marxism”

      Neither did I, until recently, when someone pointed me in the direction of Lincoln’s close ties with members of the German forty-eighters, including such people as Carl Schurz and Joseph Weydemeyer, among others.

      • 1) You need to read better. I didn’t say he was a communist. And I throw it out like it’s bad because it is bad to me. Anyway, it appears you stopped at just the two names (which I have you as a starting point, not the final tally). He was affiliated with more than just those two communists … in case, you know, you mistakenly think it’s only Schurz and Weydemeyer … or that all of these men were just passing acquaintances.

        2) He made those racist comments — which cannot be whitewashed away — he was hands-off the slave issue for a long time before deciding to use it as a political tool, and then he didn’t even free all the slaves when he did finally implement the EP. No amount of alternate speeches can change those facts, for those who have been awakened to the false image of him that has been painted for years.

        =====

        “You ignore his entire life, the actions of his entire presidency, and latch onto an unfortunate quote.”

        It was more than just one ‘unfortunate’ quote or word.

        =====

        “Put simply, Cyn, you see what you want to see.”

        How funny. I could say the same thing about people who ignore or dismiss these ugly facts about Lincoln because it’s socially popular to believe a fluff story rather than the tarnished truth.

  24. Well we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule, Cyn!

    You raise a lot of points, I’m not sure where to start, but here goes:

    1. Lincoln was a communist…

    First off, you throw out ‘Communism’ like it’s a bad word. You have to get over labels, Cyn. At a very basic level, communism is the attempt to create a classless social order based on common ownership of the means of production. At that time, in countries where the political or economic power classes grossly mistreated the working class, it was a theory based on an idealistic idea of fairness. Today, we can say that it didn’t work and was actually very oppressive, but judging a communist from the 1850′s is like judging a hippie from the 1960′s. Naive, not evil.

    Never the less, not the sort of thing many American presidents have on their agenda.

    BUT, it’s exactly the sort of accusation the southern states would have levelled against Lincoln; that the 13th Amendment wasn’t really about freeing an enslaved people, but an attack on a free Southern economy. There are plenty of people today who still think he overstepped his bounds and that it should have only been decided at the state level.

    2. and a ‘racist’

    Yet, besides the fact that he went against basically EVERYONE to free the slaves, you also think he’s a racist, based on select quotes from earlier speeches.

    3. Carl Schurz

    Interesting to hear you mention Carl Schurz. I’m from NYC, there’s actually a Carl Schurz Park there, but I never knew anything about him. I read the article linked below, and he actually sounds like a huge supporter of Lincoln and America. He helped Lincoln to gather a large number of needed votes and soldiers. He fought bravely in several battles (including Gettysburg), and later in life was a Senator from Missouri and Secretary of the Interior.

    So, when you talk about his and Lincoln’s Marxist conspiracy, that’s based on what? That Schurz was German?

    4. Joseph Weydemeyer

    Joseph was a communist. Who fought in the Union Army and helped recruit German soldiers. You can probably imagine how anti-slavery a communist would be.

    Over six hundred thousand soldiers died in the Civil War. Lincoln used every means at his disposal to get more soldiers. Exactly how much attention do you think Lincoln gave him or his personal political views? Or is this just another case of guilt by association?

    Put simply, Cyn, you see what you want to see.

    You remind me of the people who read the entire Bible and get nothing other than ‘gay people are bad’. You ignore his entire life, the actions of his entire presidency, and latch onto an unfortunate quote.

    You see that he met someone you disapprove of, and insinuate they are conspiring, without any evidence. How is that different than what Joe McCarthy did back in the ’50′s?

    You flagrantly throw out labels, saving yourself from having to acknowledge conflicting facts or complex arguments.

    This is a free country blah blah, you are free to throw out more insulting labels or conspiracy theories, but unless you have any substantial evidence to back ANY of it up, you’re not adding anything to the discussion.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/land-pirate/

  25. Not to be rude, but when can we get back to discussing the MOVIE.
    I understand it’s difficult to separate Lincoln the man, from Lincoln the Movie, and I really appreciate the well thought out posts by the well informed [Nick B]

    but to be fair to the others… this is screen rant. not political rant, or historical rant, etc…
    I have other sites that I troll for that..

    when I come to SR, I want to talk about movies… nothing more :)
    okay… that’s impossible, I understand,, but we’re all killing the vibe because we’ve gone off topic.

    let’s get back to the movie please & perhaps discuss whether or not Les Mis will upset DDL for best actor or even best picture. remember it’s Tom Hooper from The King’s Speech..
    it’s sure to have more of a chance than the Master [which nobody saw] or the sessions, which gets an A for effort, but is not to be taken seriously.

  26. Well, even Lincoln acknowledged that the EP was a temporary wartime measure. That’s why he fought to get the 13th Amendment passed. But otherwise, fine, agree to disagree.

    On another note, I finally got to see the movie last night. Fantastic! Just an amazing accomplishment on every level.

    • Well, if freeing the slaves was a top priority for him he would have or should have done it in one blow. Glad you’ve agreed to disagree … now you can move on to enjoying the movie and I’ll chose not to spend money on its perpetuation of mythology. Though, I am amazed at the uncanny likeness DDL has to the man.

  27. I’ve seen a lot of great movies in the past couple years but this one takes the cake. It was more than great it was absolutely fantastic. Daniel Day Lewis definitely deserves an Oscar and so does Sally Feilds.

  28. Movie of the year if you ask me. Spielberg and Day Lewis working together, it doesn’t get better than that. Not to mention Sally Field, brilliant as always. Anyway, good review, great movie!

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