Imagine being able to travel back in time and see history unfold before your very eyes when Abraham Lincoln, arguably the best President in US history, fought to abolish slavery no matter the opposition, dirty politics or the burden of seeing thousands massacred for the cause. That is what master director Steven Spielberg has provided us in ‘Lincoln,’ a beautiful, powerful and lasting film that is the definitive Lincoln movie ever made. Daniel Day-Lewis not only plays Lincoln, it feels like he is Abraham Lincoln. It is almost eery.
If you think ‘Lincoln,’ is a movie about his life, think again. Astutely, Spielberg limits the action only to the 16th President’s tumultuous final months in office where a nation was divided by war and the strong winds of change. Due to the perpetual torment the country was going through, Lincoln was obligated to pursue a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. His choices during this critical moment is where the movie begins.
Spielberg has not lost his directorial touch at all. Even ‘War Horse,’ which was nominated Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year, was aesthetically and expertly directed. But without doubt, ‘Lincoln’ is his best film since ‘Saving Private Ryan’. By using Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, ‘Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln’ as a template, Spielberg was able to meticulously capture that period in the White House and return us to what it would have been like if we were a fly in the Oval Office. Amongst all of its virtues, the one thing that this film won’t be recognized for is for its rousing emotional fulfillment. It won’t be met with a thunderous applause or a profusion of enthusiasm the way ‘Rocky’ or even 1984’s ‘The Karate Kid’ made one feel. You’ll be a witness to history, but with mixed emotions for the way that Lincoln had to achieve the liberty of blacks.
The performances of the cast for ‘Lincoln’ are the best of the year. Expect SAG and Critics Choice awards for the ensemble. Day-Lewis is sure to win the Oscar for Best Actor, as well for other award galas, for his strong and memorable portrayal of Lincoln. Also worthy of mention is Sally Field, as Lincoln’s volatile wife, who I have not seen deliver an emotional acting punch in years, if not decades. The rest of the cast is fantastic including Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, John Hawkes, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It truly is the best ensemble cast of 2012.
There are so many ways to have wrecked a biopic of a historical figure like ‘Lincoln’. All you need as proof is Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’. Soporific is one word to describe that film, not to mention overly-acted and melodramatic at times. We are fortunate to have seen a biopic, like this one, done the right way. I feel Lincoln himself would not have objected.