Directed by Steven Spielburg
Lincoln tells the story of, well, Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and the most well known (and loved) president. The film is set during 1865, as the Civil War is winding down. Lincoln is endeavoring to abolish slavery through passing a 16th amendment to the Constitution. However, he needs to do this before peace is reached in the Civil War before the Southern States would return and any slaves that had been freed may be re-enslaved, and the amendment would never pass. Should it pass, slavery would be banned in the United States and the Southern States So Lincoln must do everything he can to get enough votes for it to pass. However, having an early peace would mean saving hundreds of lives. So Lincoln must decide what is best for his country.
I'm just going to say this outright that I'm not an American, nor am I interested in history (much less American history at that). I'm a Canadian, and my country didn't exist during the time of the Civil War (though it became a country only 2 years after the Civil War). This movie was, obviously, very political-heavy. It was a lot, a lot of talk, and then some more talking. And while I'm not into history and I'm not American, it made it somewhat difficult to be overly interested in this film. Canada as a country has never had slavery, as before we were Canada we were a British colony and slavery was abolished roughly 60 years before it was in American. Not being someone who is into history, nor is into politics, much of the movie went over my head a little bit. After doing some research into the movie for this review (and talking to my fiancee about exactly what happened and why the amendment needed to pass before the end of the war) I came to appreciate a bit more of who Lincoln was as a person and a politician, how he was pressed against time to ban something that would never have passed had the Southern States been in the vote, and how, once they rejoined them as a country when peace was made, they would be forced to free their slaves. Clever guy, really. However the film didn't get me overly interested in history, and it felt a little too "rah-rah America" at some points for me as a Canadian to get into. (Yes I realize this movie is about America's most beloved-President, and about a turning point in American history, but you know what I mean. You can only take so much of "rah-rah" any country that isn't your own.)
Other than that, I could see how incredibly well made this film was. While I genuinely loved War Horse, Spielburg almost seemed to have listened to what the complaints that people had against War Horse and made sure none of it was in this movie. The movie was not nearly as nostalgic, sentimental, and was a lot more talk and intelligent than WH was. People are saying it's Spielburg's best movie in the last 10 years, and I have to agree. The acting was incredible, the sets and cinematography were amazing, and the script was well done.
Daniel Day-Lewis, a man who already holds 2 Oscars in his hands may need to grow an extra arm so he can hold his third. He was simply incredible as Lincoln. While we have no actual footage of Lincoln (obviously), he is exactly as what I would imagine Lincoln to be like. But Spielburg also made him human. There's something about Lincoln, a man who is an icon, that seems almost non-human in a way. He's just an icon. But Spielburg gave Lincoln a sense of humor, a love of storytelling, charm, wit, and had him throw his feet up on the table while he was busy reading whatever. Things like that made him seem like a real person and not just the iconic guy you see in history textbooks. Day-Lewis captured this man so perfectly and also made him believable and human.
The supporting cast (made up of actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Spader and Tim Blake Nelson) was quite fine. While JGL had a much smaller part than I thought he would, it was interesting side note to the history of Lincoln. And Spader and Nelson's part was some good humor, them almost pushing Senators to vote of the Amendment, but conspicuously handing out folders on the topic and following after them shouting for them to vote. Between these parts, and the ending vote, I enjoyed them and were something I could follow.
Overall, the film was well made. It was well-crafted and paid a lot of attention to detail. However, while I thought the voting scene was quite fun and brilliant, there were so many little stories going on (Lincoln and his son, Lincoln and his wife, Lincoln and the vote, etc) nothing seemed to have a "big" moment or wrap-up. And while these were all very important story lines, I didn't quite feel the importance of any of them. The movie seemed to simply touch on many things, but never really fully developed a lot of the smaller story lines. Even though they showed a little bit of the result of the ending of slavery, it wasn't quite enough to make a big enough impact.
Then again, I feel like if you're not into history, and not an American it would be a little difficult to quite appreciate what happened in the film. You can appreciate Lincoln as a politician and him being clever, but if you don't quite know the story, it may be hard to appreciate how the events turned out in the States, especially since many country abolished slavery (such as Britain) before the United States.
As for Oscar chances, this film has about a lock in every category, from Best Picture (many say it has a good chance at winning), director, Actor (current front-runner), Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, and most things within the art and tech categories, this has the potential to sweep the Oscars. However it has big competition from films like Argo (another favourite to win picture and director) and Les Miserables which also has the potential to sweep the awards in every category (including all 4 acting categories). It's definitely a big year, and Lincoln will be a big contender.