wed 21/08/2019

DVD: Lincoln | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Lincoln

DVD: Lincoln

Oscar-winner Day-Lewis lifts Spielberg's worthy biopic

Honest Abe: Daniel Day-Lewis is quietly miraculous as Lincoln

Lincoln was intended by Daniel Day-Lewis to reincarnate the face on Mount Rushmore: to give him sinew, sound and breath. This DVD’s extras show the film-makers’ efforts to help that process: real 19th-century clothing, accurate White House wallpaper and a jacket that hangs just right on Abe’s weary shoulders. “The words are the living part of him,” Day-Lewis explains, and the reedy voice he gives the folksy yet formal cadences in Tony Kushner’s screenplay sounds wryly resilient, and thin enough to snap in the buffeting winds of the Civil War’s climax. A yearning to relax, as he settles and unfolds his long body to begin another yarn, balance the portrait. It’s worth seeing Lincoln for this latest diligent Day-Lewis miracle.

Elsewhere, there are problems. The 500-page first draft the extras show Spielberg holding is wisely reduced to Lincoln’s final four months, as he ensured the slavery-abolishing 13th Amendment was passed before the Civil War’s imminent end.

Deciding to focus on the politics is brave. But this long film is half-way through before it snaps into focus, largely thanks to Tommy Lee Jones’s flint-faced abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (pictured right). His bloody-minded, acid-tongued speeches are as rousing as anything in Spielberg’s more adolescent, brilliant early work.

The golden light the director favours is kept low, cut by interior shadows; John Williams’ score is used sparingly, amidst quiet. Losing the cinema screen’s scale mutes Lincoln still more. Despite Day-Lewis and all its telling detail, this is a decorous, old-fashioned biopic. Seemingly superfluous scenes after Lincoln walks towards his fatal theatre appointment, steps chinking deliberately on White House stairs, end in a dissolve straight out of the Forties, though meant, with final words pleading for an America living “with all nations in peace”, to speak to the present. There’s much for the head to admire, and enough to stir the heart.

Watch the trailer for Lincoln

Day-Lewis's reedy voice sounds thin enough to snap in the buffeting winds of the Civil War’s climax

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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