Directed by Steven Spielberg
2 hours 29 minutes
From Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox
and Reliance Entertainment
Tommy Lee Jones
Jackie Earle Haley
Tim Blake Nelson
What I think I enjoyed most of all was getting a sense of Lincoln as a real flesh and blood person, at least as realized by Day-Lewis, Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner. I don't care how I got this sense, I'm just glad I did. It was great having a voice associated with him, seeing him smile, hearing him laugh. I couldn't have been more surprised hearing Lincoln say shit than I would have been hearing a 4-year old saying it or a preacher on the pulpit. I always have a penny or a $5 bill handy for my quickie Lincoln fix, but this was like being there, back then and I delighted in it. I would stare and stare at Day-Lewis' face and all I saw was Abraham Lincoln.
This is not the definitive Lincoln film biography. In fact it's not a biography at all. It takes place in the first four months of 1865, ending, of course, with his death which is not shown at all. We don't see him riding any mules across the Kentucky backwoods, law books in hand, nor do we learn about his apparent bipolar condition or his personal issues with racism or his now-suspected homosexuality. We do get a glimpse into his family life. We smile at his great love for his young son and understand his sometimes-wearing patience with his depressed wife.
The focus is on Lincoln's fervor for getting the 13th amendment to the Constitution passed, to abolish slavery. He wanted to get it done before the war ended, which would be soon. (It's hard to believe that doing the right thing was met with such fierce opposition. That could never happen today. Uh-huh). Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier and he had secured Senate passage but getting it past the House in a timely manner was another thing entirely.
Lincoln was our first Republican president but it is generally agreed he would be a Democrat today.
Battle scenes are served up in the opening and then a glimpse of dead soldiers toward the end. Otherwise, we have here a movie that had a script that must have weighed 60 pounds. There are lots and lots of words and for some the lack of action may be a turn-off. This is for lovers of Spielberg, Day-Lewis, Lincoln, history, politics, government, the Civil War, the 13th Amendment. There's not a car chase, ooops I mean carriage chase, to be found.
What the film accomplishes quite well is to show how this country's political system works. Again, that may be boring to some but to political junkies, the movies don't give us many opportunities to witness Washington as we do here... to get a glimpse into the political process, the backstabbing, the intimidations, the lying, the promises, the trying but often failing to work across the aisle, the hatred of those at the top. Good thing Washingtonians have gotten over such reprehensible behavior, huh? No wonder Lincoln always looked so weary.
As I was heading toward the television earlier today to shut it down so I could head off to the film, I got bits and pieces on the current White House seeing the film last night and something about questioning the authenticity of how history has been portrayed. I don't know what the beef might have been, but it is my perceived look at the history that I saw today that moved me and I am certain this film will be well-regarded for years and years to come.
What is that smell? Do you smell it? Do you? It is the distinct aroma of those gold-plated Oscars.
Kudos, too, to whoever created that magnificent poster (above). It inspires me.
Favorite Film #21