¨I could write shorter sermons but when I get started I’m too lazy to stop.¨
Lincoln is without a doubt the most iconic figure in America’s history and for that fact alone this movie is worth checking out considering it is a well researched biopic directed by one of the best contemporary filmmakers: Steven Spielberg. Lincoln may not be as entertaining as it is informative, but none the less this is a film that will stick with you and help you understand perhaps a bit more why Lincoln remains such a beloved and respectful figure in our society today. This film will win several Academy Awards and perhaps even Best Picture thanks to a wonderful lead performance from Daniel Day Lewis, a great supporting cast, and a brilliant screenplay from Tony Kushner, who had previously worked with Steven in Munich. What stands out about this biopic is the way in which Spielberg presents it by deciding to focus on a specific period during Lincoln´s second term as President. The film doesn’t have flashbacks or tell us anything about Lincoln’s past life, but rather focuses on a specific period in time where the President is trying to abolish slavery by getting the 13th Amendment passed in the Constitution. All this occurring while the Civil War is going on of course, as we see how Lincoln brilliantly manages to maneuver both things at once. By deciding to film the biopic this way we can focus on an important period in Lincoln’s life, without having to go through his entire life. I felt that this way we were able to learn much more about the President and his actions than we would have if we were given every specific about his entire life. By focusing on this specific period we really learn and understand the person that Abe is. I thought this was just a brilliant way to approach the film and it worked wonderfully.
The film takes place during Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day Lewis) second term as president in 1865 while the Civil War is nearing its end. Lincoln knows that if he wants to abolish slavery once and for all in America he will have to do it before the Civil War is over. Concerned about the little effect his emancipation act will have on the slaves after the war he begins to push for the 13th Amendment to be passed before peace is reached. The Senate has already passed the amendment, and now it is up to the House of Representatives to pass it. He knows he has the votes from the Republican Party, but he still will need about 20 Democratic votes in order to get the amendment passed. In this political game that Lincoln begins to play he tries to extend the Civil War as much as possible in order to get the amendment passed, although he knows that the longer he extends the War the more innocent lives will be lost, including that of his son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has decided to join the War. This crisis of conscience that Lincoln faces begins to take a toll on him and his family, although he manages to maintain his serenity through these troubled times. Sally Field plays his wife Mary, while David Strathairn is William Seward the Secretary of State. Tommy Lee Jones is Thaddeus Stevens, one of the Republicans in the House of Representatives who highly favors the amendment.
From the moment that the film begins you get a sense that you really are seeing Abraham Lincoln, the icon himself come to life. Daniel Day Lewis immerses himself completely into his role in such a way that you forget that you are seeing a portrayal of Lincoln, and actually begin to see Lincoln himself. Daniel is a tremendous actor, he surprised us all in There Will Be Blood, and once again he outdoes himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins his third Oscar for his tremendous performance here. He is the highlight of the film. The rest of the cast is also brilliant: You have Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Jared Harris among many other great actors. The entire cast here is magnificent as they transport us into the past in such a way that you forget you are watching a film. Everything about this film works really well, but I felt it worked more as a history lesson than as a piece of entertainment. This is not an action film, it doesn’t focus on the Civil War, but rather it takes a more personal approach as to the persona of Lincoln and the strategic politic mind he had. This is a film that will help you understand more about the man and how he managed to end the Civil War while at the same time abolish slavery. This is perhaps the greatest historical American political film ever made. Unfortunately I’m not a fan of politics and I did find this film a bit heavy handed, but it was a wonderful experience and it helped me understand and learn more about the man Lincoln.