Lincoln: a Movie Masterpiece

Lincoln: a Movie Masterpiece

Lincoln (2012) PG-13
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, and Tommy Lee Jones
Director: Steven Spielberg
Synopsis: Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. In Spielberg’s latest film he recounts how President Lincoln passed the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery forever in this country, through the House of Representatives in January 1865. However with the war almost over, Lincoln has to postpone the peace talks until he can get the amendment passed, which will require getting enough votes.

Steven Spielberg brings yet another masterpiece movie to the big screen.  We see all sorts of historical faces in this historical drama from the president himself (Daniel Day-Lewis), Mary Todd (Sally Field), and Robert Lincoln (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to Secretary William H. Seward (David Strathairn), Senator Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), and Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley).

Even though most of the movie was set in 1865 era Washington D.C, there were still many places in the capitol to work with from the White House and the Capitol Building to Ford Theater.

Using the passage of the 13th amendment through the House of Representatives, I thought, was an interesting part of Lincoln’s life to pick and made this film seemed fresh compared to the other hundreds of movies out there about the life of Lincoln. For as historically accurate as Spielberg was, there were a few, not a lot thankfully, parts that got exaggerated in retelling. For example when Senator Stevens runs home and shows his wife the 16th Amendment, that just got passed, the big shock is that his wife is an African American and that was all they needed to show. Then the two get in bed and she begins reading the Amendment to him; they already made their point they did not need to add this.

Spielberg said in an interview with Time magazine that when he finally got Daniel Day-Lewis cast as Lincoln and he was ready to start filming, Day-Lewis did not want to start until a full year later. Why? In that year Day-Lewis researched everything about Lincoln, his mannerisms and the way he talked … when he came back a year later HE WAS PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN EVERYTHING. Day-Lewis’s research paid off; his performance was spot on. From this actor we get to see a well- rounded performance, not just one aspect of Lincoln. We get to see all sides of Lincoln: the family man, the statesman, and the Commander-in-Chief.

Sally Fields faithfully represents the first lady, Mary Todd. Her performance shows the more emotional sides to the first lady. After seeing her performance I really felt like I better understood the way Mary Todd felt. In this movie, I thought, Mary Todd was a flat character who did not change throughout the movie unlike The President who was a dynamic character and did change throughout.

Another dynamic character was Senator Stevens. He had a man vs. society conflict going on within him. Pressure was on him from both political parties to vote a certain way. Previously he had been a strong abolitionist, one who is against slavery, but as the war was ending he faced a dilemma. Should he vote for this amendment or work to end the war sooner and then vote on the amendment? If they pushed the amendment until after the war it would be harder to get it though.

Again Spielberg turns to his and George Lucas’s trusted friend John Williams to write the music for this movie. This time Williams’ music is mostly background and we do not get the famous themes we are used to like from Indiana Jones or Star Wars.

There are little bits of humor stuck in at certain points within the movie, and I think their placement helps to relieve a lot of the tension and/or drama that had been building up to these points. For example about halfway into the movie Lincoln is sitting around with some of his officers waiting for reports as to how their recent attack is going. To keep the his officers morale up he tells them a humorous story about George Washington and the British. When I went to see the movie this part got laughs from just about everyone and helped audience members relax as they watched a tense moment.

The costumes, set designs, and dialogue in this film seemed very accurate for the time period in history they were trying to portray. The sets and costumes made me think I was back in the 1860’s.

The script, I thought, best revealed to me all the fight within the House and even within Lincoln’s own family.

For the most part this movie will always keep you engaged and even get you emotional at points. I recommend this film for anyone regardless as to how much you know or don’t know about our most famous president. I would give this movie a B+. You will not be disappointed when you see this movie and you will enjoy all 150 minutes of it. If you have not seen this movie you should go and see it.