Assoc. Opinion Editor
Mine eyes have once again seen the glory that is Daniel Day-Lewis.
Lincoln, starring Day-Lewis in the role of the 16th president of the United States, tells the gripping story of his final months in office and his oversight of the ending of the Civil War as well as the passage of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery.
Director Steven Spielberg allowed a star-studded cast that includes David Strathairn, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, and James Spader to showcase their immense talents while not diminishing the importance of the plot.
Speaking of plot, this is a film that has an abundance of it. While it is biographical, Lincoln is not a biography per se. It does not focus on the whole of Abraham Lincoln’s life, but instead on the daily innerworkings of a wartime White House and the political machinations necessary to attaining the abolition of slavery.
Viewers might be shocked, or not, to find that the use of arm-twisting and vote-buying was much more commonplace and apparent at the time, and something that Lincoln was by no means above using to achieve his goals.
Some of the best scenes by far were those that captured the intense debates and furious emotions of the men (white Northerners) that quarreled over whether or not to emancipate African Americans once and for all.
Throughout the film, it was impossible not to draw connections between the political struggles of the past and those of the present. For example, the bitter differences over the 13th Amendment and the hostilities that have arisen over today’s Healthcare Reform Act. This was something I am sure both Spielberg and screenplay writer Tony Kushner intended.
The film manages to do what few biopics have achieved: It brings it’s subject back to life in a believable, if not haunting way. Day-Lewis brilliantly portrays a figure that most Americans have come to think of as a strong, commanding hero as an eccentric, humorous, and vulnerable man.
Lincoln is brimming with scenes of Honest Abe telling jokes, tales, and moral parables to get across his points to others. He is seen deep in thought or debate with his cabinet one minute, and the next he is playing with his son or consoling his wife over their lost child. One cannot help but watch and get the sense of a man who was wise and caring, deeply sorrowful, engaged and yet removed at the same time.
Day-Lewis makes it easy to suspend your disbelief long enough to imagine that you are watching lost documentary footage of Abe Lincoln as he really was. As a grandfatherly figure that was always understanding. That would always offer an encouraging story or a pat on the shoulder, and as he leaves the room you sit there and think, “there goes one of the greatest men that ever lived.”
Expect Lincoln to earn numerous nominations this award season, including multiple Oscar nods, most likely for best picture as well as acting, directing, and screenplay.