Lincoln

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lincoln recounts President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts, during January 1865, to obtain passage for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the United States House of Representatives, which would formally abolish slavery in the country.

Expecting the Civil War to end within a month but concerned that his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be discarded by the courts once the war has concluded and the 13th Amendment defeated by the returning slave states, Lincoln feels it is imperative to pass the amendment by the end of January, thus removing any possibility that slaves who have already been freed may be re-enslaved. The Radical Republicans fear the amendment will merely be defeated by some who wish to delay its passage; the support of the amendment by Republicans in the border states is not yet assured either, since they prioritize the issue of ending the war. Even if all of them are ultimately brought on board, the amendment will still require the support of several Democratic congressmen if it is to pass. With dozens of Democrats having just become lame ducks after losing their re-election campaigns in the fall of 1864, some of Lincoln’s advisors believe that he should wait until the new Republican-heavy Congress is seated, presumably giving the amendment an easier road to passage. Lincoln, however, remains adamant about having the amendment in place and the issue of slavery settled before the war is concluded and the southern states readmitted into the Union.

Lincoln’s hopes for passage of the amendment rely upon the support of the Republican Party founder Francis Preston Blair, the only one whose influence can ensure that all members of the western and border state conservative Republican faction will back the amendment. With Union victory in the Civil War seeming highly likely and greatly anticipated, but not yet a fully accomplished fact, Blair is keen to end the hostilities as soon as possible. Therefore, in return for his support, Blair insists that Lincoln allow him to immediately engage the Confederate government in peace negotiations. This is a complication to Lincoln’s amendment efforts since he knows that a significant portion of the support he has garnered for the amendment is from the Radical Republican faction for whom a negotiated peace that leaves slavery intact is anathema. If there seems to be a realistic possibility of ending the war even without guaranteeing the end of slavery, the needed support for the amendment from the more conservative wing (which does not favor abolition) will certainly fall away. Unable to proceed without Blair’s support, however, Lincoln reluctantly authorizes Blair’s mission.

In the meantime, Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward work on the issue of securing the necessary Democratic votes for the amendment. Lincoln suggests that they concentrate on the lame duck Democrats, as they have already lost re-election and thus will feel free to vote as they please, rather than having to worry about how their vote will affect a future re-election campaign. Since those members also will soon be in need of employment and Lincoln will have many federal jobs to fill as he begins his second term, he sees this as a tool he can use to his advantage. Though Lincoln and Seward are unwilling to offer direct monetary bribes to the Democrats, they authorize agents to quietly go about contacting Democratic congressmen with offers of federal jobs in exchange for their voting in favor of the amendment.

With Confederate envoys ready to meet with Lincoln, he instructs them to be kept out of Washington, as the amendment approaches a vote on the House floor. At the moment of truth, Thaddeus Stevens decides to moderate his statements about racial equality to help the amendment’s chances of passage. A rumor circulates that there are Confederate representatives in Washington ready to discuss peace, prompting both Democrats and conservative Republicans to advocate postponing the vote on the amendment. Lincoln explicitly denies that such envoys are in or will be in the city — technically a truthful statement, since he had ordered them to be kept away — and the vote proceeds, narrowly passing by a margin of two votes. When Lincoln subsequently meets with the Confederates, he tells them that slavery cannot be restored as the North is united for ratification of the amendment, and that several of the southern states’ reconstructed legislatures would also vote to ratify.

After the amendment’s passage, the film’s narrative shifts forward two months, portraying Lincoln’s visit to the battlefield at Petersburg, Virginia, where he exchanges a few words with General Grant. Shortly thereafter, Grant receives General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, Lincoln is in a meeting with members of his cabinet, discussing possible future measures to enfranchise blacks, when he is reminded that Mrs. Lincoln is waiting to take them to their evening at Ford’s Theatre.

That night, while Tad Lincoln is viewing Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp at Grover’s Theater, a man announces that the President has been shot. The next morning his physician pronounces him dead. The film concludes with a flashback to Lincoln delivering his second inaugural address

REVIEW:

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most popular presidents. We had fun seeing him as a vampire hunter, now it is time to have a bit of a history lesson with Lincoln. For such an iconic figure, did this film do him justice?

What is this about?

Director Steven Spielberg takes on the towering legacy of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his stewardship of the Union during the Civil War years. The biographical saga also reveals the conflicts within Lincoln’s cabinet regarding the war and abolition.

What did I like?

Acting. Often time, you will hear me complaining about how films of yesteryear had actors who actually knew how to act, while today’s films are populated by so-called actors who get by on their looks, rather than talent. With this film, that is not the case. I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that had such complete performances from everyone in the cast. The great performances has restored my faith in today’s actors, let me tell you.

History to life. If you saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then you may have noticed that they took the legend that is Abraham Lincoln and made him a man…when he isn’t fighting vampires. This film does the same thing. It doesn’t try to put Lincoln on the high pedestal we hold him to today, but shows him as a flawed man dealing with the politics of Washington, same as any president from Washington to Obama.

Just as needed. Tommy Lee Jones’ character was just what this film needed. In typical Tommy Lee Jones fashion, he not only gave a great performance, but also threw in some comic relief. Not necessarily ha ha funny, but through his mannerisms and sayings. I guess the Academy took notice, because they nominated him for Best Supporting Actor.

What didn’t I like?

Talking. Going back to the old days of film, when everything wasn’t about explosions and CGI is something that I am a huge proponent of. However, this film literally is nothing but talking. Nearly 3 hours of talking, debating, talking while crying, and more talking. Having said that, I’m not sure what else could really happen. The film is focused on the passing of the 13th amendment and all the politicking behind it. Not exactly subject matter than lends itself to exciting action.

Mrs. Lincoln. I love Sally Field. Until recently, it seemed as if she would never age. I wasn’t a fan of her as Mrs. Lincoln, though. I”m not sure if it is because of her, or because it felt like they brought her in just to have a major female in the film. That isn’t to take anything away from Mary Todd Lincoln, just felt as if she didn’t really belong.

Lincoln is the kind of biopic that doesn’t skirt around the truth or make up stories just to make it a blockbuster. This is the kind of film that will encourage to go do some research on Lincoln, the 13th Amendment, the political parties, and everything else that you see in this film. Every bit of praise this film has received is well-earned. While it isn’t necessarily the most interesting of pictures, it is hands down one of the best that I’ve seen in quite some time. I highly recommend you see this before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

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2 Responses to “Lincoln”

  1. […] inform viewers who aren’t as familiar with the person(s) they are based on. In films such as Lincoln and, to a lesser extent, Pearl Harbor, this isn’t as necessary because the average viewer is […]

  2. […] no need to go deep into each character’s backstory, unlike something more serious like Lincoln or some other character […]

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