The movie of the year has finally come, and it’s Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. With an all-star cast used to the most of their abilities with a compelling story and amazing dialogue, there is absolutely nothing to be left wanting in this fantastic portrayal of our 16th President. The story begins during one of the more politically tumultuous yet less discussed portions of Lincoln’s tenure as President; his attempted passage of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution.
As the Civil War is reaching its conclusion during the Battle of Wilmington, Lincoln is doing everything in his power to attempt to ensure that slavery is abolished forever. What ensues is a complicated albeit easy to follow story about the President using all of his legal knowledge and political savvy to get as much support as possible to pass the Amendment and handle the difficulty of differing public opinion that would come once peace is achieved between the states. The cast enlisted to portray the various representatives and other historical figures is a veritable who’s who of Hollywood; including the likes of Sally Field, Joseph Gordon Levitt, John Hawkes and Tommy Lee Jones. However, Daniel Day Lewis may have very well channeled the spirit of Abraham himself.
There is little recognizable about the actor as his look, speech patterns and even his subtle demeanor in each way is very much like that of the former President. The dialogue between the characters is simply superb, as it does a great job of relaying the story as well as divulging and developing the characters into the emotionally sympathetic, charismatic and powerful characters that they are. Interestingly enough, the tactics used by President to procure the necessary votes are the same which are used today; he lobbies, offers jobs and uses every ounce of Political persuasion at his disposal to get what he wants. Tactics today that are often frowned upon as a part of the bureaucratic political machine are the very tactics that was used to pass Legislation considered by Historians as some of the most important in our nation’s history. There is a lot of subtlety in this movie that, while it does not necessitate a second viewing, does require the audience’s full attention.
One of the more entertaining – albeit poignant statements within the movie – is spoken between the Representatives. As one of them says, “If we allow the black man to vote, what would be next; women?” At that point, the entire house enters into an uproar. The very notion of someone other than upper class, white, American born males was still unheard of at this point, and the director makes it a point to demonstrate this dark, rarely spoken of chapter of American history without being too preachy or overtly political. The only questionable decision of the film is to include the assassination.
It was inevitable as the conclusion of the story, that can go without saying, but it is so difficult to include a death scene in a movie without it becoming the forefront of the picture. For me, that is unfortunately what happens here. So much of the film’s previous impact is lost as the film’s final scene shows the President’s inaugural address shortly after he is seen pronounced dead. It’s a jarring scene; and considering there are at least two separate scenes in the movie that would have made for a far better conclusion, Spielberg’s choice here is bewildering.
To say that this movie is good is a gross understatement. The dialogue is inspiring; it makes one long for a time when those who took the time to speak made sure what they were saying mattered. The President is a soft-spoken man, often long-winded at times, and yet with every word it is apparent that he is a man of the people. The supporting cast is completely brilliant, particularly Tommy Lee Jones as Representative Thaddeus Stevens and Sally Field as Mrs. Lincoln.
Movies are actors playing characters to best tell a story to the masses; and there are little to none that do that nearly as well as in Lincoln. This is a must see for anyone who enjoys seeing movies of any type. Four stars out of four.
Watch the trailer here.