So few movies today take a classical approach in both style and substance that we often forget how engrossing such a thing like talking can be.
It’s nice just to be able to sit in a theater and watch a movie with such fine acting and production design that it feels as if history itself is unfolding in front of your eyes. “Lincoln” was such a film, and Steven Spielberg has created such an endearing work.
The film embodied the style of a procedural political drama that emphasized the anger, moral dilemmas, marketplace antics and even bribery of the political system. This is not new behavior in Washington, folks.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln
As with all his roles, Daniel Day-Lewis transformed his body and mind to encapsulate Abraham Lincoln in his last months of life, fighting feverishly to pass the 13th Amendment. His performance brought to life Lincoln’s wit, long-windedness, passion, temperament, sullen posture, intuitiveness, his faults of being less than a perfect family man and even political behavior that called into question his ethical behavior. But, above all, there was a sensitivity that called for sympathy and attention from the audience that turned a we-know-what’s-gonna-happen film into one of intrigue and absorption.
More marvels of acting came from both Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones, as U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens. Inspired casting led to performances that captured Mary’s paranoia and heartbreak and Stevens’ grumpy, salty, humorous behavior that contributed to an above-average demonstration of acting.
Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner made a fine team in creating a bygone era with dialogue that required keen attention to understand all to be drawn into a web of great cinematography, set design and other methods of classic storytelling that rewarded such focus. The greatest of rewards were found over the highest mountains as this movie demonstrated.
For all the fine acting and aesthetics, the movie was an acquired taste. I cannot recommend this film to just anyone. To appreciate this movie was to appreciate the kind of focus needed and attention to detail encompassing the two and a half hour runtime.
Like any good play on the subject, there were little explosions to grab your attention. This was entertainment for those who can find it in talking and human interaction. A masterful portrait of a troubled man from masters of cinema honoring the style and importance of history and projected it in a way that befitted the story and the messages it held.
Spielberg proved there are many ways to tell a story, but the most important at the heart of each story is a human whose heart is a conflict that drives and throws out his most inner self to be tried. Whether it’s with spaceships or horses, his story deserves to be told.