Spielberg is known for creating outstanding films of high merit, and Lincoln is no exception to his stellar reputation. While Lincoln is historically accurate and features phenomenal actors, the film is definitely not geared towards the average movie-goer.
Lincoln depicts the final months of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and life, mainly focusing on the month of January 1865. At the start of the film, the 16th President was just re-elected the previous November and was beginning his second term in office. Having already served four years as president, and also having the Civil War begin and continue through his first term, Lincoln was looking for a way to both end the war and fight for something he was extremely passionate about until it became law: abolishing slavery.
Thus the 13th Amendment (the abolishment of slavery) comes into play, which is what Spielberg chose as the main focus of the film. Today, American history is taught typically depicting The Union being anti-slavery; Lincoln illustrates this was not exactly the case. Just as the North and the South were torn, thus was the U.S. Congress on the issue of slavery. Spielberg demonstrates how the strict divide in The House of Representatives was frustrating for Lincoln himself who was passionate about passing the Amendment. The film details how the 13th Amendment eventually did pass, despite such differing mindsets in the Legislative Branch as well as Lincoln’s Cabinet. Additionally, Spielberg spotlights Lincoln’s personal and family life, his sometimes manipulative managing tactics, and surprisingly wonderful sense of humor.
The praise Day-Lewis has received thus far for his portrayal of Lincoln is well earned, and I would be upset if he didn’t receive an Oscar nod for his work. Because Americans see Lincoln on a daily basis – as his bearded face is found on our $5 bill and penny – it was easy to see how well the makeup artists transformed Day-Lewis into Lincoln. While the makeup was superb, the strangest and most mind-blowing aspect of the entire film was actually seeing Day-Lewis act as Lincoln himself. Obviously, no one in the world today knew Lincoln when he lived, so there’s no way for anyone to visually mimic Lincoln’s mannerisms.
However, due to Day-Lewis’ accurate physical transformation and his own personal studying of the 16th President from historical documents, watching Day-Lewis act in the film truly made me believe that he WAS Lincoln: everything from his hunched and light walk, caring yet passionate nature, and gentle voice. The other famed actors in the film also deserve recognition for their work, notably Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, and David Strathairn as Secretary of State Seward. The full year Day-Lewis requested from Spielberg to study every possible aspect of Lincoln prior to filming definitely benefited the film’s overall grandeur in the end.
From a Hollywood standpoint,
Rated: PG-13 (For an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage, and brief strong language)
Lincoln opens in limited theaters on November 9, 2012, and in full theaters on November 16, 2012.