The Lincoln Movie - A Steven Spielberg Film
This Movie Portrays Lincoln as a Man, Not a Statue
Simply called Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's film is a masterpiece. He formed the idea of making a movie about Abraham Lincoln over 10 years ago. Liam Neeson was to play the role of the president, but he stepped down before the production started. The movie came into focus for Spielberg after the publication of Doris Kearns Goodwin's blockbuster book Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The movie is based on the penultimate chapter of that book, which is about the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. That is what the film is about: the drama and political wrangling that led to the passage of the bill. Because the film is based on history we know that the amendment had in fact been ratified, but in Spielberg's adroit hands you are in a constant state of suspense. Spielberg put the task of writing the screenplay in the hands of Tony Kushner, best known for writing the play Angels in America. It was produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy and directed by Spielberg.
13th Amendment - The Setting
Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The proclamation was based on Lincoln's war powers as Commander in Chief. It freed slaves in the Confederate states but it did not abolish slavery. Lincoln was concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would be viewed as a war act, and that slavery would continue. He wanted slavery over once and forever. The way to do that was to get the Thirteenth Amendment ratified.
The Thirteenth Amendment states:
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation
The story takes place in late 1894 and early 1895, the waning months of the Civil War. Don't expect a war movie; it's not. Nor is it a regurgitation of historical scenes akin to a documentary. Lincoln is a drama of relationships among powerful men. Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's research, the film portrays the back room deal making and vote buying that were necessary because of Lincoln's insistence on getting the Thirteenth Amendment ratified. So your brother wants to be a postmaster? Great, can we count on your vote Congressman? The movie shows a sometimes low road to a great place.
The Cast - The Major Roles
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln, in what may be the finest performance of his career to date. Many actors have played the part of Abraham Lincoln over the years. What is riveting about Day-Lewis' portrayal is his capture of Lincoln as a man, not as a period set-piece. Lincoln spoke in a somewhat high pitched tone, like a tenor, not a soprano and Day-Lewis gives it a marvelous turn. What we know about Lincoln from hundreds of books is that he had a mildness about him, a fairness, a patience, and a way of engaging people not with bluster but with soft words and a rapier sharp mind. Lincoln was no LBJ, nor was LBJ a Lincoln. Day-Lewis gives us this Lincoln, historically accurate and moving. Day-Lewis is well known for his devotion to the Method School of acting. So totally would he engross himself in the role that people found it difficult to communicate with him during a day of shooting. At the end of the day he became a regular man, but during a shoot he was Lincoln.
David Strathairn delivers a solid performance as Secretary of State William H. Seward, a man in constant communication with Lincoln. Strathairn was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Edward R. Murrow in the movie Good Night and Good Luck.
Sally Field plays First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman known to be complex, difficult and eccentric. Field waged a campaign of her own to land the role, and the result makes us glad she did. Her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln perfectly rounds out Day-Lewis' interpretation of Lincoln. You feel like you know these people.
Have you seen Lincoln Yet. Please give your rating.
Tommy Lee Jones plays the Radical Republican congressional leader and staunch abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. Jones is systemically incapable of a poor performance, and his role in Lincoln further cements his reputation as one of America's great actors. His speeches before Congress are riveting as are his scenes of backroom dealing. He is saddled with a silly looking wig in the film, but that did not take away from his stellar performance.
Hal Holbrook plays Francis Preston Blair, a Republican leader who tries to arrange for a peace meeting between a delegation from the Confederacy and a Union group. It's interesting to note that Holbrook won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in a TV miniseries in 1976 entitled Lincoln.
James Spader plays William Bilbo, a Republican political hack whose job it is to round up votes for the ratification vote. Spader is a veteran actor of many films, but perhaps best known for his role in the TV series Boston Legal. His role as Bilbo in Lincoln is at times funny and startling as he horse trades and cajoles the congressmen for their votes.
The Box Office
Lincoln is a hit, perhaps a blockbuster. It has received wide critical acclaim and we await the Oscars to see which of the nominees win, and there will be plenty of nominees. The film was released on November 9, 2012. A month later the movie grossed $87,088,719 domestically, more than covering its cost in one month.
See this movie.
Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran