It’s hard to imagine that anyone who’s deeply interested in the Civil War didn’t make it to the theaters to see Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln during its incredibly successful run up to the Oscars, where Daniel Day-Lewis stomped the competition to win Best Actor but the movie lost out to Argo in most of the other major categories.
Lincon is out now on home video. They sent us the 4-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digtial copy combo pack, but it’s also available to rent or buy digitally from iTunes and Amazon or you can get a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack or a single-disc DVD.
If you haven’t seen the move: Lincoln is a huge surprise after the sweep and bombast of Spielberg’s WWI spectacle War Horse. Lincoln feels far more dramatic, but the only real action comes in the opening scene of the movie. The rest is (mostly) guys (and Mary Todd Lincoln) arguing about the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the one that abolished slavery) and making some points about the historically messy political process in Washington.
Lincoln holds up over several viewings and all the other actors seem inspired by Day-Lewis’ work. There are notable performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, John Hawkes, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson and Walton Goggins, all of whom must’ve taken a pay cut to make this movie possible.
Spielberg based his movie on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestelling history Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and hired his Munich screenwriter Tony Kushner to write a script based on the book. The first draft came back at 550 pages, as evidenced by the above photo included in one of the documentaries included as one of the extras on this release. Since they weren’t going to make a 9-hour movie, Spielberg and Kushner decided to focus on the bipartisan dealmaking that led to passage of the 13th Amendment. The fact that we live in a time when Congress seems incapable of making those kinds of deals was most likely not a coincidence.
The Blu-ray transfer of this film is magnificent. The image is at least as good as what I saw in the theater and the sound mix comes across far better. The most interesting documentary extras are only on the 4-disc Blu-ray. “Living With Lincoln” and “In Lincoln’s Footsteps” offer some real insights into how the filmmakers subbed Richmond, VA for Washington and what kind of decisions went into giving the movie its first-class period detail.
The documentaries on the main Blu-ray (one of which is also on the DVD) are shorter and less detailed but they’re also worth watching. The digital copy is an iTunes or Windows media download that lives on your computer or can be streamed from the iTunes store to an iPhone or Apple TV, something that still seems easier than the UltraViolet scheme used by other studios. Since the 4-disc Blu-ray package currently costs the same as the 2-disc version at Amazon, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go all the way if you’re looking to by.
The digital and streaming versions look just about as good as the movie will once it shows up on cable TV next year. Lincoln’s a good title for the library and most certainly a movie you can use to demo why you spent all that money on a home entertainment system.
The clip below shows off a lot of the interviews included on the main disk extras, even though it’s not the exact same versions you’ll get on the home video version.