Sometimes a historical drama can be snooze-worthy, especially if you’re not a history buff.
And while Lincoln is a movie about an important time in American history, I was concerned it might fall into that category. And it’s true, there was something about it that didn’t keep me as riveted as I would have liked.
It was even, dare I say, dull at times, like something that would be shown in a high school American history class. But, somehow I came away with a positive impression and would ultimately recommend seeing it.
A lot of the credit is due to Daniel Day-Lewis, who gives a first-rate performance as the 16th president. Day-Lewis seems more than just an actor playing a role; he really becomes Abraham Lincoln both physically and emotionally.
The movie focuses only on the last few months of Lincoln’s life, which saw the ends of slavery and the Civil War. Back then, it was the Republicans who were considered the radicals with liberal opinions, in particular about abolishing slavery. President Lincoln believed the Declaration of Independence’s statement “all men are created equal” extended to the slaves, and that they should be free. It was the Democrats who were more conservative and interested in keeping the status quo.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed the slaves, but he realized that it probably wouldn’t hold up after the war. Thus, he felt the need for the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
Lincoln signals a return to form for director Steven Spielberg after last year’s ho-hum movie, War Horse. Lincoln likely will be remembered as among his best flicks.
Spielberg does not make Lincoln emotionally manipulating or a heavy-handed drama. Instead, he lets the story tell itself. After all, it won’t come as a surprise to the audience that the North wins the Civil War or that slavery is abolished.
Scenes such as when the House of Representatives votes to pass the 13th Amendment give the movie some exciting and memorable moments.
Tommy Lee Jones puts in a comical, yet memorable performance (he gets laughs from the bad wig before even opening his mouth) as Thaddeus Stevens, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Stevens’ passionate and outspoken opinions toward ending slavery make him a character the audience can root for as well.
While Lincoln is set during the middle of one of America’s worst wars, most of the “action” (the battles) happens off-screen. You know it’s happening, but you don’t see much of the nitty-gritty. What we see instead is lots of lobbying and meetings among the president, his cabinet and various congressmen negotiating the end of slavery.
Even if you’re not a history buff, there’s still a good deal of entertainment to be had in Lincoln. In addition to Day-Lewis and Jones, I can’t forget Sally Field’s great performance as the emotionally unstable wife Mary Todd Lincoln. Lincoln is worth seeing as much for the cast and acting as it is for the story. ••
Movie Grade: B+