I finally got a chance to see Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” and it is excellent. This surprised me because going in I thought the time period that Spielberg chose was wrong—I thought he should have done 1863 for obvious reasons. But the masterful screenplay by Tony Kushner addressed that by, in the opening scene, having several soldiers quote back to Lincoln the Gettysburg Address, then ending the movie with a fade-back to Lincoln’s second inaugural speech.
In between, you get to see how politics really worked in the 1800s (and to some extent still works today). Called “the purest man who ever walked the earth” by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Lincoln bribed, cajoled, and strong-armed congressmen to provide the votes for the 13th Amendment. One of the key moments occurs when Tommie Lee Jones, as Stevens, has to lie about his true beliefs. He must say publicly that he ONLY supports equality “before the law,” when in fact he supports total equality. But this statement was necessary to swing a few Democrat fence sitters who finally made up the margin of victory.
Daniel Day-Lewis is absolutely brilliant as Lincoln. You find yourself laughing at his stories, now 150 years old. But he also captures Lincoln’s anger, not only with the Radical Republicans, but also with his wife and son—Mary, who is looking for an excuse to go into one of her depressive fits, and Robert, who defies his father by joining the Army of the Potomac. You see a human Lincoln, but a still heroic Lincoln.
If there was one weakness, surprisingly it was in the score by John Williams. This was uninspiring and in scenes where Spieldberg should have you bawling like a baby, the music lets the film down.
No film has ever dealt with the dry topic of legislation such as “Lincoln,” and it’s doubtful any actor will again capture Honest Abe as did this Englishman. Highly recommended.