Lincoln succeeds in recreating the past
There are a lot of ways this film could have gone wrong. Think about it, how do you encompass the life of one of the greatest Americans that has ever lived? How do you explain the struggles Abraham Lincoln faced as he tried to keep a country together while attempting to grant freedom to four million slaves, and portray that in just two and a half hours of film?
Stephen Spielberg found a way. Based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln, opening Friday, chronicles the president in his last four months of life, exploring his relationships with Secretary of State William H. Seward (David Strathairn), radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), his wife Mary Todd (Sally Field), and others. The film takes time to develop, and each one of these characters is shaped by Honest Abe's calm, focused demeanor, captured beautifully by Daniel Day-Lewis.
If you've ever seen his performance in My Left Foot or There Will Be Blood, then you know the kind of Oscar-worthy acting I'm talking about. Kearns describes Lincoln as a leader with "the rare wisdom of a temperament that consistently displayed an uncommon magnanimity to those who opposed him," which is exactly what Day-Lewis achieves in his role. In fact, he plays Lincoln so incredibly well that producer Kathleen Kennedy said she and other cast and crew would get the chills, as his performance was so believable that they often found themselves wondering if it was the real Lincoln in front of them.
That caliber of work is found in Jones' character as well, as he captures the stern, abolitionist Congressman with tremendous power and gravity in such a way that he will likely be a candidate for Best Supporting Actor at this years Academy Awards. Field's portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln is not to be overlooked either, as she gives a passionate performance that makes you question the sanity of her character, and adds a greater sympathy to Abe, who has no reprieve from troubles once he returns home at the end of the day.
It's been a while since there has been a historical drama that demands your respect like Lincoln does. Even at 150 minutes it draws you in and never bores. It's a fairly honest representation of what was going on at this point in time. Lincoln's fight to pass the Thirteenth Amendment was one in which the odds were drastically against him, much like how his fight to reunify the country was an uphill battle. With a phenomenal cast and brilliant direction, Abraham Lincoln's struggles were brought to life on the big screen like never before in a film that is going to be a hot topic when award time comes around in a few months.
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