Most of the American population would only recognize Abraham Lincoln as the great historical figure who abolished slavery.
In “Lincoln,” critically acclaimed director Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Jurassic Park), who, during an interview after an early movie screening, shared that Lincoln was “one of his most favorite figures in the American landscape,” attempts to delve past this superficial façade and investigate the incredibly difficult process of modifying the Constitution and establishing the 13th Amendment, the law which outlawed slavery.
He nails it, but it was the actors that made the movie worth watching. But in order to distinguish “Lincoln” from other historical films, Spielberg said he had to “attack the narrative with tremendous ambition.”
Academy Award Winner and, ironically, British-born actor Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) plays Lincoln, the president who is forced to make compromises and is torn between inherent beliefs and his immense responsibilities.
The film aptly illustrates Lincoln as a human who must determine what political sacrifices to make when attempting to establish complete racial equality and the abolition of slavery. Lincoln in the movie is not exempt from personal problems as the relationships with his wife Mary (Sally Field, “Brothers and Sisters”) and oldest son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “500 Days of Summer,” “50/50”) are strained by the Civil War and ensuing chaos.
Thaddeus Stevens, played by Academy Award Winner Tommy Lee Jones, a St. Mark’s ’65 alum, is just one of the many politicians who are pitted head to head and engage in hotheaded, entertaining debates that are well performed. “Lincoln”’s actors were able to effectively express their pedestrian sentiments so that the historic figures they play did not seem as intangible to the audience as before.
Save for the plot’s middle, which was admittedly a bit of a lull for the 2-hour long movie, the last half hour, which I thought was the climax, quickly escalates as amendment is finally ratified and culminates with Lincoln’s assassination and the nation’s great reaction.
Even though I knew the 13th Amendment would eventually secure a spot in the Constitution, it was nevertheless enjoyable to watch Lincoln, Stevens and other great political figures diverge or succumb to either Confederate or Union pressures.
This movie, with its reputable film and acting casts, was intended to be a drama, but will still give you insight into the life of Abraham Lincoln not taught in your history classes.
“Lincoln” will be released nationwide Nov. 16.