‘Lincoln’ offers more than history lesson
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 07:11
Steven Spielberg, a film genius who has directed movies of all kinds, has captured the essence of the chaos that ensued during one of America’s most volatile periods by focusing on a man who has been revered through time as a hero.
Set during the fragile time of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, dynamically played by Daniel Day-Lewis, is elected by the people for a second term even as the Civil War rages on.
Day-Lewis, known for bringing his characters to life in movies such as “There Will Be Blood,” resurrected Lincoln as a man of great charisma, intelligence, and dry humor. Without his acting, the great story of
Lincoln would have been lost in the sea of redundant historical documentaries.
In the midst of the long, bloody war, Lincoln proposes to set forth a bill — the famous 13th Amendment that
abolished slavery and ended the Civil War.
But unlike typical historical movies that dramatize and create unrealistic scenes in the name of heightened
entertainment, Spielberg does justice to Tony Kushner’s compact script.
“Lincoln” is filled with truth, wit, humor and irony that often lends itself to painting each of the characters not just as historical figures, but as humans full of emotions during the film’s heartbreaking moments. The grainy realism accompanies the viewer long after the end of the movie.
In the opening scene, Lincoln is sitting down listening to two black soldiers who stand in the pouring rain to speak to him about being proud to serve in the Union and fight for justice. The men also bring up their
disagreement with getting lower pay for doing the same job as a white man. Suddenly, two white soldiers interrupt the conversation and praise Lincoln for his eloquent, moving speech, the Emancipation Proclamation — the speech often credited with freeing slaves.
The scene closes when their commander orders the black soldiers to return to their posts.
While the scene may seem trivial, in the film it sets up the basis for President Lincoln’s motives in passing the 13th Amendment.
While politicians fight him tooth and nail, rejecting the amendment every step way, Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, seek out lobbyists to win votes from the Democratic Party to pass the amendment.
The film explores deep political corruption, interaction between politicians and the inner workings of the
political world. Even the fight for justice must contend with corruption for the right causes.
Some may write off the movie as only for history buffs, but the film does more than simply recreate a part of history.
The movie draws an in-depth characterization of Lincoln in politics, as a husband, as a father and as a man of the people.
Married to Mary Todd Lincoln, played in the movie by Sally Field, “Lincoln” examines his relationship with his wife, his eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and his youngest son, Thomas Lincoln, by revealing the struggles both he and his family face to survive.
When Mary discovers that her oldest son, Robert, has enlisted in the military, she believes he is doomed to die like her youngest son, Willie, and accuses her husband of being a heartless father since he did not stop their son from enlisting or shed a tear at Willie’s funeral. Mary shines in her weakest, most fragile moment — the intelligent wife who stood up to the vilest politicians to help her husband bursts with frustration and anger. Fields shows her true acting ability of being able to paint Mary as a human and a wife who stands the test of time with her husband.
These intimate relationships depict Lincoln as a man carrying the sorrows and burdens of not simply a nation, but of his family, which only scratches the surface of his complex nature.
Unlike so many other historical films that focus solely on the history they are made to represent, “Lincoln”
paints a fuller picture of a man burdened — but far from overwhelmed — by crisis. In short, “Lincoln” stands alone as one of the year’s best films; a movie destined to be remembered as a classic, and one that brings a figure from history to the present.