The history of this country is steeped in mystery and intrigue, but it’s fuzzy on the details. We cling to heroes of the past because we are jaded by the present. Lincoln, a new film from Steven Spielberg, comes to us at a time when there seems to be even more political strife than usual. (Or perhaps that’s just me getting older and actually paying attention.) Either way, I think this movie’s arrival on the silver screen is very timely, given the recent election.
Daniel Day Lewis, a man revered for his choice of films and roles, as well as his ability to portray characters with so much emotion and conviction, has done it once again. As the title character for this film, Lewis portrays one of the U.S.A’s greatest leaders and pioneers in a way that few other men could. Surrounded by some of the best actors in Hollywood (including Tommy Lee Jones), this star-studded film has a laundry list of very recognizable faces from all corners of Hollywood. The red carpet was clearly rolled out for this film.
The story starts amid the death and destruction of the American Civil War, an event that is both a fixed point of the story and a constant backdrop. Seeing the fighting and killing made me wonder how gritty this movie would get, but as it turns out, they kept the level of gore pretty low.
The film goes on to set the stage for the final footsteps into the southern theater that was the Civil War. In tandem, it follows the highly controversial 13th amendment, which was barely passed at the time due to racism and the belief that one color of human should be slave to another color. The absurdity of this notion is highlighted, but it’s also familiar in the way it parallels issues we face today: legalizing pot, gay marriage, prostitution, the right to bear arms, etc. Perhaps our grandchildren will watch a film in the future about these struggles, and regard it as we do a film about the Civil War. As I sat and watched this movie, I was nearly in tears at the thought of how African-Americans were once regarded as lesser beings. Will our grandchildren cry at the ridiculousness of our beliefs?
The cinematography was amazingly crisp. Many of the characters are introduced in such a way that they have a grand entrance through the mystique created by camera angles. I have to truly applaud Spielberg for what might be his best film yet. The camera work was immensely effective, relying heavily on the contrast between shadow and light. Coupled with richly detailed sets, it made everything staggeringly realistic, and absolutely convincing.
I will say this for Lincoln: I haven’t been so moved and taken aback by a period film in my life. This is a must see for everyone.
The dialog is highly political, and sometimes goes along at quite a clip; be prepared to miss a few things the first time around. However, watching it a second time surely won’t be a sin. The humor alone merits a second viewing. There are many good laughs to be had.
Lincoln is a work of art.
5 out of 5 Stars
Editor: Jeff Boehm.