More seriously, like a number of professional and amateur reviewers, I felt that this film couldn't make up its mind: was it a film about a Great Man or about a post-idealistic politician? As a general rule, Lincoln is much more interesting when it is the latter than the former. Lincoln raging at his insubordinate cabinet, frustrated son, or unhappy wife, or Lincoln musing over the tension between his oath of office and the technical legality of his actions, co-exist uncomfortably with the Lincoln stared at reverently by his servants and subordinates. (Gore Vidal's novel Lincoln, which lets us inside Lincoln's head only once, takes a more hardheaded approach: there's considerable fear leavening the reverential lump, as all of the characters slowly realize that, in one way or another, they've deceived themselves about who Lincoln is and what he's capable of doing.) In particular, the assassination struck me as a structural misstep, not least because of the sentimentalized tableau around his bedside (complete with gentle halo of white light, no less). We know he's going to die, but that doesn't mean that the film needed to include the assassination (especially not offstage); if anything, moving straight to the second inauguration speech from the amendment's passage would have been more fitting. Finally, there's the film's odd split between its political rhetoric and what appears on the screen. On the one hand, some of the politicans (especially Thaddeus Stevens) sound like they've been reading up on contemporary social justice rhetoric; on the other hand, as Kate Masur and others have noted, the film pays virtually no attention to the existence of Black activism in the period--even though two notable activists, the White House servants William Slade and Elizabeth Keckley, are featured prominently in the film! (Masur rightly calls their portrayal here "generic, archetypal characters.") Only the pointed queries from the soldier at the beginning hint that the Black population was not simply watching from the sidelines.