Review: Lincoln


You all know the story of Abraham Lincoln. Born and raised in a log cabin -- shopkeeper, lawyer, U.S. Representative, Senator and finally 16th President of the United States of America. Lincoln's presidency was full of historic events: Prior to his inauguration, the South seceded. Within months of his inauguration, the Civil War begins and Lincoln is tasked with prosecuting a war to keep our young country intact. After winning a second term in a landslide, Lincoln begins the task that will define his presidency and our country's future: the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Steven Spielberg's newest film Lincoln recreates the tumultuous time when the 13th Amendment was proposed, argued and finally passed by the both houses of Congress. Lincoln takes you to a time you think you know, but probably do not.

The movie does a faithful job of creating the world of mid-19th-century Washington, D.C. -- a crowded and dirty city, highly appropriate for the dirty business that is lawmaking. This is a city with rutted roads, slathered in mud occupied by people comfortable lying (literally and figuratively) in it. An appropriate setting for the passage of one of the most controversial amendments. The atmosphere for this film is a pillar of its success, it is immersive.

In casting Lincoln, Spielberg assembled a cast that delivers an amazing set of performances. The film's namesake is played by actor Daniel Day-Lewis. He delivers a performance creating a highly convincing representation of what Abraham Lincoln might have been like. His cadence of speech, his physical mannerisms, his love of country, concern for family -- all are brought to the fore creating a fully developed character. Accompanying Lewis on this journey is Sally Field, who portrays Mary Todd Lincoln. Serving as First Lady is a tough job. In her case it was even tougher. Mary was a fragile person prone to migraine headaches and bouts of depression. Field creates a character that is both vulnerable yet can be strong when the need arises. Great Presidents need great First Ladies and Field delivers with her performance.

I would say that the cast of Lincoln is rounded out with some other good actors but that would diminish the strength of this cast. Other notable performances come from Tommy Lee Jones as cantankerous Senator Thaddeus Stevens, plus David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jackie Earle Haley and many others. You cannot but help asking: Who didn't they pick in this stellar cast?

Accompanying the cast is an Olympic-quality crew. First is the script, which focuses the story on a small, yet important, time in Lincoln's presidency. Adapted from a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tony Kushner's script brings us a fully developed set of characters and settings all within a small self-contained plot. It's the job of the cinematographer to provide the visual atmosphere of the world. This job was left to Spielberg's frequent collaborator Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. The visuals created by this man and his team take you away from your modern life and throw you knee-deep into the muck that is America in 1865. Finally, I cannot but help mention that John Williams created the score. The score should be given a cast credit. He is just that good, as always!

The movie Lincoln is a testament to the skilled team of filmmakers that brought it to life. It is a joy when a film can tell you so much more about a part of history than you thought you knew. Lincoln delivers an edge-of-the-seat experience you will not soon forget.


Wonderful review of a beautiful film. Wish it was required viewing for America!