Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a powerful movie. It is a riveting account of the final months of his life, of one of our greatest President’s struggles with Civil War, family tragedy and permanently ending the evil of slavery in America. While the dialogue is sometimes stilted, though I understand much of the dialogue to be taken from what we know was actually said, the emotion and import is real and vastly entertaining.
The greatest triumph of the movie is without doubt Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln. Though I am far from an expert, it is one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t already know who was playing him I do not think I could have guessed it. His Lincoln is as interesting a person as he is a historical figure. He is funny and irreverent, though weighed down by hard choices and numerous tragedies. You can almost see his shoulder’s sag under the great burdens he bears. But though there are no easy choices, you see the strength and care with which Lincoln makes them. It is truly an amazing performance.
The rest of the cast is also good. Tommy Lee Jones actually makes you forget he is Tommy Lee Jones playing an abolitionist congressman. Sally Field is great as Mrs. Lincoln, a woman at the end of her rope and who we know is soon to face another great tragedy. There are many more familiar, talented faces, like Joseph-Gordon Levitt as Robert Lincoln and James Spader as a vote buyer. Like all movies attempt to do, Lincoln really takes the viewer there and that is largely on the shoulders of the great cast.
The focus of the movie is on Lincoln’s attempts to get the 13th Amendment passed in the House of Representatives before the Civil War ends and the return of the Southern states make it impossible. Lincoln must weigh some less than upstanding methods needed to secure the two thirds majority needed with his desire to officially end the evil of slavery as well as attempts to broker a peace with the South. Should he meet with Southern leaders to end the war and stop the loss of life, or let is wind to its inevitable end while he eliminates the central cause of that war. There are no perfect options. It is both entertaining and illuminating.
Spielberg has brought countless classics to the big screen. (Countless = 10) Lincoln definitely belongs among his best. It is on the same level as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. I expected to like Lincoln, but it might be the best movie I’ve seen this year. The word that constantly comes to mind is powerful. Do not miss it.