Lincoln (♦♦♦♦)

Based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln the movie focuses on the last four months of Lincoln’s presidency, on his role in bringing an end to the Civil War, his relationship with family, allies and political foes and his push for passing the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution granting equal rights before the law to people of color.

Lincoln is not a great movie, but it is a very good one. Steven Spielberg directs and co-produces the film. Lincoln suffers greatly due to its running for close to 3 hrs, and the heavy political discussions involved that have more resonance these days due to the partisan bickering ubiquitous in Capitol Hill. Despite these flaws, Lincoln shows acting performances for the ages, particularly the ones belonging to Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Stevens.

The resemblance of Daniel Day-Lewis to Lincoln is uncanny. Day-Lewis physical resemblance and demeanor make it appear as if he were possessed by Lincoln himself. His performance is nothing short of brilliant, Day-Lewis actually became Abraham Lincoln. The physical resemblance is exploited endlessly in profile camera shots of Day-Lewis throughout the film.

As I said, another solid performance is that of Sally Field as Mrs. Lincoln. I don’t know much about the historical character, but I’ve heard that she was a bit mentally unstable. However, the woman I saw portrayed in the movie was vibrant, indeed marked by the loss of a child and desperate to save another from the claws of war, yet failing in spite of it all. The Mary Lincoln portrayed in the film was a steady supporter of her husband’s cause and, as many other politicians’ wives, an adviser and confidante.

Tommy Lee Jones in the role of Representative Stevens is the best performance I’ve seen from him. I confess I’m not a fan of his, I find his acting very even (almost always the same), but in Lincoln he breaks his own mold to portray a man divided between his conscience and what society at large dictates of him. As it turns out, Stevens’ support of abolition is a cause closer to his heart than he cares to admit in public for he shares his bed with a black housemaid.

The star-studded cast makes the most of the solid screenplay. There are plenty of political discussions, outmaneuvering, betrayals, all for the greater good which in this case is the passing of the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution granting people of color an equal standing before the law to their fellow white men. Ironically, another hundred years would pass before the people of color were entitled to equality in US society.

The war scenes are horrific, but fortunately there are few of those as the movie focuses on politics and less on the war going on.

Also co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn as Secretary of State, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, and Derek Luke in small cameo at the beginning of the film.

Aside from the historical significance of this movie, it will be remembered as another one for which Daniel Day-Lewis will win a Best Actor Academy Award, and well deserved I say.