Willie Waffle is the movie critic for people who hate movie critics.

Lincoln - Review

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lincolnposter.jpgNo, we don't get to see Abraham Lincoln slaying vampires in this film.  The cover up continues.

Set in January of 1865, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Lincoln.  The war is going well for the Union, victory is imminent, and the President is considering how he can accomplish the goal of eliminating slavery before it might be too late. 

The Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in the North, but Lincoln worries it will not carry the weight of law once the North and South reunite, so he is trying everything possible to pass a 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution which will outlaw slavery before the Southern states rejoin the United States and have enough votes to block it.  

Can Lincoln and his supporters rally enough votes to pass the amendment through the House of Representatives?

Is this a ruse to force the Confederacy to surrender in an attempt to negotiate the continuation of slavery as a condition of their surrender?

Will Lincoln lose on both accounts and be stuck with a prolonged, bloody war?

Lincoln is an average movie blessed with an amazing performance.  Director Steven Spielberg, much like he did with War Horse, delivers a movie that feels old fashioned at times.  Writer Tony Kushner and Spielberg too often deliver comedy when it is not needed, as if the audience couldn't handle the drama and intricacy of what the President is attempting to pull off.   Events, characters and plots all feel simplified at some level, except for our title character.   

Yet, Lincoln succeeds due to Daniel Day-Lewis.

Spielberg and Kushner deserve credit for bringing out the sides of Lincoln we don't often hear about when thinking about the canonized version of the dude on the $5 bill.  We get to see Lincoln's penchant for folksy storytelling, while trying to provide an insight into the man as father and husband without making it too modern or painting it with the brush of what we hope he would be like.  

Whether breathing fire or filling the great man with solemnity, Lewis brings so much depth and nuance to Lincoln's actions and personality it is the most honest, well rounded portrayal we have ever seen about one of the greatest American heroes.   He is so good, he stands out in every scene in which he appears, even though this is a solid cast that can all hold their own (and have a few Oscar nominations among them). 
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It's more than looking so much like Lincoln.  It is the happiness Day-Lewis gives the character as he engages with his children and those who gather around to hear those stories.  It is the weight of the world he wears on his weary face as the man tries to negotiate a political minefield.  It is the power and command Day-Lewis has when Lincoln needs to be a leader, and the tenderness when he is just trying to be a regular guy.   

Lincoln might not end up in the Oscar competition, but Day-Lewis better buy himself a tux for the big night.

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2 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)

Lincoln is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language