“Lincoln”: A Striking Political Epic
By Matt Patton
There are few directors bold enough to tackle historical subject matter from one of the most controversial points in American history. Even less are the actors capable of portraying one of the most influential men (arguably the most influential man) to ever lead our country. In Lincoln, released this past Friday, it appears that Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis are the director and actor respectively suited to those tasks.
The opening sequence of Lincoln begins two months after his re-election as President of the United States. The Civil War continues to ruthlessly wage between the Union and Confederacy, and the 13th Amendment is being introduced into the House of Representatives. Should the amendment pass by a majority vote, it will be added to the Constitution, officially abolishing slavery. The film focuses heavily on both Lincoln’s struggle to end the war decimating his country and outlaw the act that started the war in the first place.
Though not to demean or take away from Spielberg or the excellent crew in any regard, I attribute much of the picture’s achievement to the actors that make up not only the main cast, but the ancillary cast as well. Without doubt, this was one of the best acted films of 2012, and this is something truly evident onscreen. Daniel Day-Lewis himself is (as usual) impeccable as Abraham Lincoln. A two-time Oscar-winner already (My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood), Day-Lewis’ performance in Lincoln will almost assuredly garner him another nomination for his honest, down-to-earth portrayal of our 16th president. The most striking thing, for me anyway, was that by the end of the film I felt like this Abraham Lincoln was some sweet, old grandfather of mine that has plenty of stories to tell (some appropriate, some inappropriate). It truly felt like he was an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation.
Speaking of Oscars, I’d put heavy odds on nominations for two other roles from the film: Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Rep. Thaddeus Stevens. I’ve never particularly been a huge Sally Field fan. However, she goes full crazy here as Mrs. Lincoln and I highly doubt the Academy will pass up the chance to give Field her third Oscar. Tommy Lee Jones, in another aspect, commanded a performance almost equal to that of the title character. He plays a member of Congress instrumental in the passing of the 13th Amendment. It’s a real scene-stealing performance on the part of Jones, who also rocks a killer perm in the movie.
I only had one gripe with the film, but it’s really nothing major. There were moments in the course of the plot where the writing just seemed sluggish. It was almost as if there were too many plot devices occurring at the same time, or that there were things that were brought up and then never touched on again. I can’t really put my finger on it. You might pick up on what I’m talking about once you see the film. Don’t get me wrong, not every aspect of the writing was like this throughout the film; the dialogue was consistently excellent.
Overall, this movie was fantastic. In case this didn’t convince you, Joseph Gordon Levitt is also in it.