YMMV / Lincoln


  • Applicability: Several theories were raised about the film's relation to current modern-day issues, such as if it had a message about bipartisanship, social causes (*cough cough gay marriage*), pro-Obama in that it's about African-American equality, or pro-Republican in that that's the party most of the protagonists are. Even the State of Israel got in on it, after Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu and his aides saw the film and discussed both Lincoln's methods and the 1864 Congress's relation to their own 2013 political mixup.
  • Award Snub: Lincoln was expected to be the heavyweight of the 85th Oscars, leading with twelve nominations, but it only ended up winning two, Best Production Design and Best Actor. And even then, the Production Design win was seen as more of a slight surprise, compared to other lavish period pieces like Anna Karenina and Les Misérables (2012).
  • Awesome Music: After the passage of the 13th Amendment its supporters start singing the "Battle Cry of Freedom" in the Capitol and on the streets. The congressmen actually start doing it while still inside the Capitol.
    • Most of the soundtrack, really. John Williams has outdone himself, again.
  • Ending Fatigue: A couple of reviewers (and Samuel L. Jackson along with Conan O'Brien and Jack White) argued that the film could have ended with the shot of Lincoln leaving the White House for Ford's Theater, rather than continuing on to the assassination which isn't even depicted. These scenes may have been a remnant of earlier incarnations of the script, which covered the whole of Lincoln's presidency.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • In a movie hyped for Daniel Day-Lewis' deeply committed and highly accurate portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, it's Tommy Lee Jones' Thaddeus Stevens that steals the show.
    • Also, James Spader as W.N. Bilboe, one of the lobbyists working to help pass the amendment.
  • Genius Bonus: Possibly. In the scene where Robert returns, he is greeted enthusiastically by Tad, who starts chattering away at him while somebody shoves a petition at him about his insolvency proceedings, asking if the President can look at it. What Tad is saying is almost completely incomprehensible but listening closely you can tell he's talking about Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species. note 
    Tad. She's asleep, probably, they went to see Avonia Jones last night in a play about Israelites.note  Daddy's meeting with a famous scientist now note  and he's nervous because of how smart the man is and the man is angry note  about 'cause there's a new book that Sam Beckwith says is about finches, and finches' beaks, about how they change, and it takes years and years and years, and...
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Lincoln is not the first film to speculate that Thaddeus Stevens was married-by-common-law to his African-American maid. The Birth of a Nation depicted it first with a Captain Ersatz of Stevens but used it to just further discredit him, while this film depicts it rightly as a very sweet thing.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In Gangs of New York, DDL played Bill the Butcher, a crime lord who was vehemently anti-Lincoln, and is seen throwing a knife at a Lincoln campaign poster on Election Day. Also, his character's main rival in that film was played by Liam Neeson (see What Could Have Been).
      • Also, Fernando Wood, a Democratic rival to Lincoln's party, was notoriously supported in New York by the Dead Rabbits gang in Real Life.
    • This serious, close to history biopic came out the same year as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
    • Hal Holbrook, who plays Francis Preston Blair, played Lincoln in the miniseries' Lincoln (1976) and North and South, Book II (1986).
  • Iron Woobie: LINCOLN. WILL. FREE. THE. SLAVES. No matter how much it tears him apart.
  • Memetic Mutation: Lincoln has been doing well in theaters...
  • Nightmare Fuel: The depiction of the fighting in The American Civil War.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Jackie Earle Haley's very brief but very memorable performance as Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.
    • Robert E. Lee, even though, and maybe especially because, he's The Voiceless.
    • S. Epatha Merkerson as Thaddeus Stevens' longtime mistress (would've been his common law wife, if the laws of the time allowed interracial marriage) Lydia Smith. One scene, where she reads aloud the 13th Amendment, conveying how much this means to her and to every American of her race.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Dane Dehaan briefly appears in the first scene as one of the Union soldiers greeting Lincoln, about two solid years before he was cast in the pivotal role of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
  • Spiritual Successor: Tony Kushner said that he and Spielberg saw this film as a delayed sequel to John Ford's 1940 Young Mr. Lincoln. That film showed Lincoln near the start of his career, this film shows Lincoln at the very end.
    • It also serves as as one to Amazing Grace, a biography of William Wilberforce, and his similar efforts to outlaw the slave-trade in the English Parliament.
  • Stoic Woobie: Elizabeth Keckley grew up a slave, and nonchalantly tells Tad that she was beaten with a fire shovel when she was younger than him, and she lost a son in the war.
  • Tear Jerker: How Tad Lincoln learned of his father's death.
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • There was significant outcry from the state of Connecticut after the film depicted most of its House reps voting against the amendment when in actuality all of them voted for it. Modern-day Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney was even among the protesters, writing to Dreamworks urging them to change this for the film's Blu-Ray release. Screenwriter Tony Kushner defended the decision by saying the scene represented both the early opposition to the amendment for dramatic tension (Connecticut is the first state to vote in the scene) and Connecticut's then-ambivalence towards Lincoln (he only received 51% of vote there come reelection.)
    • A New York Times piece protested the film's few, mostly passive black characters, making it seem as though they contributed nothing to their own freedom. This stands out considering an early draft for the film was about Lincoln's friendship with Frederick Douglas (who does not appear nor is mentioned in the film.)
  • Values Resonance: Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in The Atlantic noted that while on the surface, Lincoln was a conventional film, it was in fact wholly radical when compared to other films about the American Civil War:
    The implicit message of Lincoln (the necessity of political compromise) isn’t very radical. But when you consider the film, as a whole, against the backdrop of how America has handled the Civil War in popular culture, it is shockingly radical. It may seem ordinary to those of who study the War...but this is decidedly not the history presented in The Birth of a Nation, in Gone with the Wind, in Hell on Wheels, in Ride With The Devil...Lincoln says the Civil War is about slavery. Full Stop ...I have never seen these facts—basic history though they may—stated so forthrightly, without apology, in the sphere of mass popular culture.


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