Opting to cover only the last few months of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency rather than attempting to mount a full fledged biography, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is nevertheless a masterful accomplishment. Even compacted into this small amount of time, the film allows us to see behind the legend and the schoolbook stock character and into the heart and soul of a human being. With a mesmerizing central performance and a cadre of actors that would be the envy of any film, Lincoln provides a bracing and satisfying viewing experience.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/26/2013
With the Civil War nearing an end, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is intent on getting the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed before the southern states can rejoin the Union and possibly prevent its adoption. But to get the majority of votes needed, he must somehow convince twenty House members to change their votes, some of whom are going out of office and hardly eager to side with the President. In addition to that, he’s fighting battles on other fronts: his son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is determined to enlist in the war even with only a few months of it left though wife Mary (Sally Field) is bitterly opposed to it and fears they’ll lose him as they lost another son. There is also a delegation from the South wishing to discuss an end to hostilities, but a too-quick end to the war will mean several representatives who think the best way to end the war is through abolishing slavery will no longer need to vote that way if the war is over. So, Lincoln must play a dangerous game of subterfuge to get what he wants at the times that he wants it.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Lincoln and 1776 have a great deal in common: both present dramatic recreations of monumental votes among a governing body which determined the ultimate course for our nation. Both Lincoln scripter Tony Kushner and 1776 scribe Sherman Edwards take some dramatic license in telling their stories but nonetheless provide a riveting series of arguments pro and con on the issue at hand and, even with the viewer knowing the inevitable outcome, manage to generate considerable tension as to the resolution of each debate. While Kushner and Spielberg get a trifle bogged down in the sheer number of men that must be persuaded to change their votes (necessitating cutting some of their stories short of full development) and the final war scenes are of necessity truncated, we become familiar enough with the men to watch in earnest as they wrestle with their consciences.
The domestic scenes with Abe dealing with the constant pique of Mrs. Lincoln and trying to reason against his son’s adamant desire to join the army make wonderful counterpoints to the political intrigues of the story. While some might find these breakaways from the congressional debates an intrusion, they’re actually rather welcome respites from so much high-flown rhetoric. And we see Lincoln as a doting father to his youngest son Tad (Gulliver McGrath) in some delightful and rather heartbreaking moments knowing Abe’s tragic end (and Spielberg handles that in quite a novel way, too, optimizing the shock and horror of his assassination).
The actors in this vast cast are an amazing collection of Oscar, Emmy, and Tony-winning greats. Daniel Day-Lewis’ justly celebrated performance as the President is so marvelously rich and varied that it practically defies description. Rather easy-going with a million stories and homilies, Honest Abe can also be Devious Abe and Angry Abe at certain moments as Day-Lewis’ superb enactment finds a rainbow of colorful emotions to portray such a complicated man. And watching him walk slowly and rather exhaustedly toward the carriage that will drive him to his eventual death is one of the most soul-crushing images in recent cinema. Sally Field likewise summons up a range of emotional reactions that are a wonder to witness as Abe’s “Molly.” Tommy Lee Jones gets to strut and bellow as the fiery Thaddeus Stevens, and David Strathairn is no less effective as Secretary of State William Seward. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets some fine emotional moments as Robert Lincoln, while great actors like Hal Holbrook, James Spader, John Hawkes, Peter McRobbie, Bruce McGill, Lee Pace, Jackie Earle Haley, and Joseph Cross get to strut their stuff on the floor of the House or in closed meetings with the President. Jared Harris does a good job playing General Ulysses Grant in several scenes making two of the war’s most important personages (the President and his commanding general) played ironically by Englishmen.
The film’s Panavision 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. With color slightly drained from the image to give the film more of a flavor of an engraving, sharpness is exemplary throughout, and colors are consistent throughout. Black levels are wonderfully delivered with shadow detail quite exquisite. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is completely involving with excellent but unobtrusive use of its entire soundfield. When the raging debates start in the House, the mix takes us right into the middle of the orations with cacophony all around. John Williams’ beautiful background score and intelligent use of period tunes also get expertly threaded through the fronts and rears. Dialogue has been wonderfully recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Quality: 5/5
Disc One contains the feature film and the following bonuses. All are in 1080p:
Special Features Rating: 4/5
“The Journey to Lincoln” features director Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, production designer Rick Carter, screenwriter Tony Kushner, book author Doris Kearns Goodwin, and stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones discussing bringing the story to the screen.
“A Historic Tapestry” shows behind-the-scenes production work in Richmond, Virginia being used to double for Washington, D.C. and for Civil War battlefields. Among the brief interviews are with producer Kathleen Kennedy, star Sally Field, production designer Rick Carter, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and original author Doris Kearns Goodwin. It runs 4 minutes.
Disc Two contains the following featurettes:
“In the Company of Character” spends its 10 ¼ minutes allowing many of the primary cast members to talk about their own roles and how they fit into the framework of the production.
“Crafting the Past” concentrates its 10 ¾ minutes with interviews with production designer Rick Carter, costume designer Joanna Johnston, and makeup artist Lois Burwell discussing how their work enhanced the authenticity of the production.
“Living with Lincoln” is the longest of the featurettes: 27 minutes with director Spielberg, the primary cast, production designer Carter, and film editor Michael Kahn discussing the three most important locations: the opening Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, the showdown on the House floor, and the unusual way Lincoln’s death is announced.
“In Lincoln’s Footsteps” is 16 ½ minutes with three more principals technicians who insured an accurate depiction of the era: film editor Michael Kahn, composer John Williams, and sound supervisor Ben Burtt.
The disc includes promo trailers for War Horse, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Once Upon a Time.
The third disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
The fourth disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie.
A monumentally powerful film dealing with Abraham Lincoln’s single-minded determination to shepherd through the passage of the 13th Amendment and end the Civil War, Lincoln, like the director’s earlier Armistad, is more important verbally than visually, but for those who find the titanic struggle to retain and refine the strings of democracy established by the Founding Fathers, this gorgeous Blu-ray release is must viewing. Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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