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Shanholtzer 1
Allison Shanholtzer
Mr. Newman
English 101: Rhetoric
22 October 2014
Fight for the Reviews
Amblin Entertainment and Dreamworks have teamed up together to achieve a legendary
motion picture that will be remembered for decades. In 2012, director Steven Spielberg created
the phenomenal movie Lincoln, a film that easily exceeded the expectations of the audience and
proved to be one of Spielberg’s greatest historical movies. In Lincoln, the president struggles to
struggle to get the 13th amendment passed, due to the opposition in the House of
Representatives. Towards the end of the movie, Lincoln successfully gets the amendment passed
through corrupt bargaining to get his votes. Even though Dave Calhoun and James Berardinelli
believe Lincoln has a successful main character in capturing the president’s emotions and a
significant use of symbolism, they have different ways in approaching their plot summaries.
As one would agree, both Dave Calhoun and James Berardinelli believe that Lincoln is a
compelling and complex film due to how convincing the cast is. Calhoun begins his review by
stating how the main character, Daniel Day-Lewis, portrays his Lincoln as “...complex and
endearing, never fully likeable but always hugely admirable.” Knowing basic knowledge of the
president, Calhoun believes that no one other than Lewis can pull such a convincing and realistic
Lincoln. From the actor’s movement to his overall appearance, one could say that they are seeing
the actual sixteenth president of the United States in his office. During the scenes where the
audience observes the stress and frustration the president goes through, it seems very realistic as
if they were actually there during the time period. Likewise with Berardinelli, he also agrees with

Shanholtzer 2
this statement and, if anything, he supports Calhoun by including how “Day-Lewis doesn't just
play Lincoln; he inhabits him.” What is meant by Berardinelli’s words is that the actor portrays
his character so well that he makes Lincoln have a genuine feel. Like what was stated above,
Daniel Day-Lewis takes the extra step that very few actors do in their acting: he makes his
performance very convincing and keeps the Lincoln feel throughout the film. Overall, both of the
critics believe that Daniel Day-Lewis goes above and beyond by giving the audience a truly
remarkable and realistic portrayal of the sixteenth president.
Not only does Lincoln have a successful main actor, but there is a significant use of
symbolism throughout the film. As symbolism is the hidden meaning behind a certain object or
person, the audience would believe that there is no symbolism used in Lincoln. However,
reviewer Dave Calhoun proves the audience wrong by stating the president represents“...a
snapshot of a great man without ever slipping into a portrait of sainthood.” In Calhoun’s view,
the overall way the president was set up in this film was remarkable, as it continuously
influenced the audience that every move he made, it was solely made in ending the war. To
Calhoun, he believed Spielberg wanted Abraham Lincoln to be seen almost as an angel. Every
action or decision that Lincoln made, it was meant to help the people and that those decisions
were not meant to harm anyone. His primary goal with his actions was simply to end the Civil
War and get the 13th amendment passed. In Berardinelli’s review, he also agrees with Calhoun
but in addition, Berardinelli states that the film illustrates “...a powerful and compelling portrait
of the man who has become an icon.” Berardinelli also believes that with all of the decisions this
president made, a lot of them were hard on him, as well as his cabinet. Lincoln knew that he had
to make the right choices for the citizens and getting the amendment passed, whether or not he

Shanholtzer 3
liked the result. Even with his corrupt bargaining, both reviewers agree that Lincoln resembles
that of a man who wanted the best for his people.
Although both reviewers agree on the main character and symbolism, the two did differ
within their own plot summaries. Calhoun starts out with a very simplistic summary of the film.
He dedicates a small portion of the review by recounting important events in one paragraph. He
states how Lincoln struggles “to find enough Republicans and Democrats to back the
amendment” and how he needs to stay on his toes with the continuous war in the North and
South. This sentence pretty much summarizes itself, as it takes the two main points of the film
and puts it into one sentence. Whereas Berardinelli takes a more descriptive approach to the plot
summaries. In his review, he begins by stating one of the main points and then, takes a few
paragraphs to adequately explain the details of that point. He first states that Lincoln must pass
this amendment but the conflict he has is that “he must avoid even a single Republican defection
and gain at least 20 votes from Democrats” (Berardinelli). Unlike Calhoun, he takes a moment
with his audience to break each point into subcategories with explanation, instead of just simply
stating the point.
Although Dave Calhoun and James Berardinelli believe that Lincoln has an outstanding
main actor and significant use of symbolism, both of them have contrasting styles of the plot
summaries. Even with these similarities and differences, Lincoln adequately surpasses any
history goer’s expectations and will become a legendary motion picture for years to come.

Works Cited

Shanholtzer 4
Berardinelli, James. “Lincoln.” Reelviews. Reelviews, 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=2552>.
Calhoun, Dave. “Lincoln.” Timeout 22 Jan. 2013: n. pag. Timeout. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.timeout.com/london/film/lincoln>.

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