Film Review: Lincoln


In cinemas now

By Joshua.Chambers

21 Feb 2013

Lincoln is a magnificent movie, and you must go and see it if you have any interest in politics (if you don’t, I’m not sure this publication is for you). Daniel Day Lewis is spellbinding as the lonely president trying to balance his desire to end the continuing bloodshed of the American Civil War with his belief that slavery should be abolished. Tommy Lee Jones also earns an honourable mention, as does John Williams, whose score is sublime.There ain’t a lot else I can add to existing reviews; so instead, here are four observations inspired by it.

1. Objectivity is all well and good, but no-one should be morally neutral. In both journalism and public administration, there’s a huge amount of discussion of impartiality and balance. Undoubtedly, these are important, but I wondered how the vote over the 13th Amendment would have been reported by newspapermen, and discussed by bureaucrats. Objective reporting or impartial discussion would strip the humanity out of the issue, presenting it on a ledger with suffering measured against electability or growth.

2. Politics is a dirty business, and that’s okay. This film, based on the book Team of Rivals, shows political chicanery at its very worst. But sometimes, the ends do justify the means in politics.

3. Stephen Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch. I’ll forgive him the fourth Indiana Jones movie. And yes, Lincoln was a little verbose, but it rattled along despite being two and half hours long. There’s also a wonderfully poignant moment in this film when Tommy Lee Jones returns home from Congress.

4. Facial hair is much missed in politics. The modern Cabinet could do with a good set of mutton chops or a handlebar moustache.

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