Go see Lincoln.

LincolnNo, not the one where he fights vampires. I’m not even giving that one the time of day. The one that comes out in 2 weeks and stars Daniel Day-Lewis. Go see it. I was able to go to an advance screening last week and lemme tell ya, it’s great.

The film follows the last 4 months of Lincoln’s life, when he was struggling to get the 13th Amendment approved by the House of Representatives in order to end slavery, while simultaneously trying to end the Civil War. It really captures not only the struggle he went through to get the 2/3 majority needed to pass the amendment, but also the incredible dilemma he faced in pushing to end slavery: He had a chance to end the war before the vote on the amendment, which could have saved thousands of soldiers’ lives, but had to weigh this against the opportunity to free millions of slaves living in bondage. Daniel Day-Lewis portrays this excellently, really bringing to life the difficult moral decisions Lincoln had to make during these days.

Speaking of which, Day-Lewis is one of the best actors of our time and is sure to get an Oscar nom for this one. And if he doesn’t win, I’ll be surprised. You can really see his method acting come through. When he delivers Lincoln’s second inaugural address, it’s like the animatronic president from Disneyland came to life. Sally Field is also excellent as Mary Todd Lincoln, but a real surprise standout is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. His lines on the House floor are among the best in the film, and delivered with outstanding wit and stoicism. Those who don’t remember their American political history from high school might be surprised to see that it was the Republicans in the House who supported the abolition of slavery, while the Democrats opposed it. Stevens was a fervent and vocal supporter of abolition, and Jones portrays this excellently. In fact, part of the film deals with Lincoln having to reel Stevens in a bit in order to get the necessary Democrat votes to ensure a majority. The scene in which Stevens has to declare before the House that he believes in equality only under the law, not in all things (contrary to his oft-expressed personal belief that all men were born equal before God) is particularly stirring, especially when he turns this pride-swallowing into an opportunity for biting sarcasm.

The movie does an excellent job of getting past the legend to capture Lincoln’s humanity. This is exemplified in his relationships with his son and wife, particularly in a powerful performance by Field in which she begs him to set aside the amemdent for the sake of their marriage and sanity. The film also get into Lincoln’s reputation as a storyteller, using historical and political anecdotes to roundly arrive at a point and bring people over to his side. It also depicts his own self-doubt and rationalization over assuming so much executive power during wartime. such as: did he even have the right to issue the Emancipation Proclamation? No one said he didn’t, and he was re-elected, so he must presume this authority is vested in him. It’s in these moments, where the legends surrounding Lincoln the historical figure are deconstructed and we get to look into the heart of Lincoln the man and the president,  that the film really shines.

In summary, I highly recommend this film. Being a historical drama set in the 1860s and focusing on politics, some may find it slow-moving (and long at 2 1/2 hours), but the dialogue is so rich and the acting so fine that I hardly noticed. Lincoln is a sure bid for best picture, and Day-Lewis a sure bid for best actor, both very deservedly so.

3 responses to “Go see Lincoln.

  1. Yes, most people forget African Americans supported Republicans since the Reconstruction era and the south was largely Democratic until the New Deal coalition.

    But I don’t think I can sit still in the theaters for over two hours if the TARDIS doesn’t pop up somewhere.

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