Review #22 Lincoln

Directed by- Steven Spielberg

Starring- Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee-Jones and Sally Field

As someone who spent half their life in the American school system, and is rather unfortunately related to John Wilkes Boothe, I had a bit of a moral duty to see it.

Lincoln is a beautifully crafted, politically-genius film. Perhaps because everyone knows how it ends, I was quite content watching 2 and a half hours of deep political discussions. This type of movie isn’t for everyone though, it was a little like a very long episode of West Wing (which for me, meant I was in my element). The film focuses on the last few weeks before the vote on the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution (abolishing slavery), but to be honest explores more than that. It looks at the relationship between Lincoln and his wife and sons, and more deeply looks at Honest Abe as a person.

I was surprised by how many times I laughed during the film and was thoroughly entertained by Lincoln’s many witty anecdotes. If I’m honest after the first one I hoped it would be the last, but as the movie went on, I enjoyed them, sort of in the same way small kids gather round their Grandpa to hear a story of the olden days.

Abraham Lincoln was obviously a brilliant man, not just being able to understand politics and law but also maths, science and philosophy, the combination of which obviously shaping his views on slavery. Tommy Lee-Jones was superb as Thaddeus Stevens, with the congressional scenes being among some of the most emotional ones in the film. I found I was very much inspired by Honest Abe, and it made me feel rather sad at how our modern day politicians (see David Cameron and Barak Obama) have changed for the worse.

Seeing the film has definitely influenced whom I want to win the Academy Awards. The whole Lincoln family was acted beautifully, Sally Field conveying the torment of a distraught mother, still grieving over her child’s death, and bravely standing by her husband, possibly one of the most important men in history.

Who was I surprised to see in the movie? James Spader. I know him as Alan from Boston Legal, so it was a bit like ‘Alan solves slavery!’ However, he didn’t steal the show and provided the film with a certain light-heartedness.

The score is one of John Williams’ finest, I didn’t know it was him when I sat down but just by listening to it (and it’s a Spielberg film), I guessed. Reading about the making of the movie was fascinating, Spielberg turned up to the set in a suit, and insisted on calling the actors by their character names. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis said this about playing Lincoln:

“I never, ever felt that depth of love for another human being that I never met. And that’s, I think, probably the effect that Lincoln has on most people that take the time to discover him… I wish he had stayed [with me] forever.”

The movie is based on the book ‘Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I will duly be reading. As I understand it, the film is not 100% historically accurate, but in this case I don’t think it matters. Lincoln may not be a perfect movie, but it is an important one.

Four and a half stars.