Lincoln is now available on Blu-ray/DVD in a simple, but elegant looking package.
Steven Spielberg’s latest opus is a look inside the inner workings of what many consider the greatest American President ever – Abraham Lincoln. The trailers and the advanced publicity on this movie are very misleading. If you walk into this movie expecting a sweeping autobiographical epic, then be prepared to be slightly disappointed. What Spielberg delivers is his version of Masterpiece Theater.
Spielberg’s Lincoln delivers a masterclass in acting, staging and the “dramatics” of the piece but it is missing something. Like Masterpiece Theater it feels more like a very competent product that should be loved but comes across as a bit too clinical and aloof. Spielberg gets out of the way and lets the story of Lincoln’s fight to abolish slavery unfold slowly and confidently.
The movie, based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, shows how important abolishing slavery was to Lincoln and the lengths he was willing to go to get it done. Not only was it immoral but he thought that by ending it the South would not have a reason to continue fighting if he took away their central reason for fighting. The real star of this isn’t Daniel Day Louis’ amazing portrayal of Lincoln (although this critic prefers a Lincoln who kill some Vamps), its Tommy Lee Jones’ performance as Thaddeus Stevens.
While Lincoln was the cerebral assassin when it came to dealing with the Pro Slavery crowd, Stevens was the one who wore his passion and the Nation’s conscious on his sleeve. Jones’ delivery featured quiet power that made you stand up and take notice of every word he uttered. Stevens, as portrayed in this movie, is the true hero of getting passed in the house.
Stevens disagreed with Lincoln and locked horns because he thought Lincoln only wanted to end slavery out of political expediency and not out of the same passion that he felt. Stevens also wanted to severely punish the South, something Lincoln was not going to do.
Writers Goodwin and Tony Kushner really understood the nuance of language and how it worked back then. The movie is sprinkled with lots of copious quotes from Lincoln – almost too many to the point where it seems like Lincoln speaks in flowery colloquialisms all the time. The debates on the floor of the house and in Lincoln’s Cabinet were spirited and sounded authentic.
It is hard not to come away from this movie with a new-found appreciation for the sport of Politics. The nitty gritty of how it works – the horse trading, the conflicts of party loyalty vs. conscience, etc. is on full display. Unlike today’s politicians he seemed like these guys whether they were pro or con were at least passionate in their positions.
This isn’t a typical Spielberg movie, John Williams’ score is largely muted throughout the movie, there are no sweeping camera shots and there are no cheesy “heart tugging let’s rescue a horse from barb wire” moments. The only Spielberg touch is the inclusion of Lincoln’s son to be the standard “cute” kid.
While everything in this movie is technically brilliant and it is clearly one of the best movies of 2012 its just missing something. It is possible to recognize the grand artistry of something but not have a personal connection to the material.
The Journey To Lincoln (9 Min. HD) – This short feature talks a little bit about the inspiration and making of Lincoln.
A Historic Tapestry: Richmond, Virginia (4 Min. HD) – This clip is a behind the scenes look at the experience of shooting the movie on location in Richmond.
In The Company of Character (10 Min. HD) – This feature talks about Daniel Day Louis and how he transformed into Lincoln
Crafting The Past (10 Min. HD) – We learn a bit about how the past was brought to life
Living With Lincoln (27 Min. HD) – This is a more complete look at the film and features elements pulled from the other features.
In Lincoln’s Footsteps (16 Min. HD) – This is a really good look at the thought process behind how the films was scored and shot.
From the nice simple cover art, to the clean, beautiful blue navigation menus this has to be one of the most elegant looking Blu-ray/DVD packages I’ve seen in awhile. The set is spread out over two blu-ray discs and one DVD. The movie is contained on one disk and includes trailers. The 2nd disc contains all the bonus features. Subtitles include English, French, and Spanish.
The video is sharp, but the cinematography doesn’t necessarily stand out on blu-ray. The movie is incredibly muddy looking (both literally and figuratively.) The definition of the faces look clear without a lot of the over sharpness HD sometimes provide. This is in large part to the overuse of shadows in the lighting. Audio include a 7.1 DTS Master, a Descriptive track, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.
This Blu-ray release feels a bit cold and aloof. Beautiful packaging but the picture quality doesn’t really “sing” and the extras are fairly “non-existent.” If you like the movie, this is a fine Blu-ray to pick up.
- Movie – B
- Audio/Video – B
- Extras – C
Final Overall Grade – B