Lincoln

     From the time President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it would take 145 years for this nation to see it’s first African-American Commander-In-Chief ; nearly half the time chattel slavery was sanctioned in the U.S. It’s been a long, arduous, and in many cases, perilous crossing into Civil Rights, voting rights, even the right to serve in the military for us as Black people. Things that every Black genneration, especially our young people, should learn about.

   Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” smartly focuses on the initial aspects of our journey, concentrating on the passage of the 13th Amendment in lieu of a straight up biopic of the 16th president. It’s engagingly funny as well as dramatically informative; a definitive 19th century example of today’s “politics as usual“, with all the proverbial wheeling and dealing to procure votes for a just cause. Mainly touching on the latter days of Lincoln’s administration before his brutal assassination, Spielberg furnishes an in depth look at Honest Abe’s true character. As a man, a father, a husband, and as a president.

   Based in part on historian Doris Goodman’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the film opens with the re-elected president conferring with Black soldiers concerning a recent Civil War battle. The war itself has already cost many lives on both sides after four years. Still, Lincoln feels the need in all this national chaos to push forward his 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Unfortunately for the president, wanting freedom for slaves and national peace is tantamount to the old adage of having your cake and eating it too.

Daniel Day-Lewis, who understandably at first, was reluctant to portray our greatest president, channels Lincoln’s thoughts and feelings in ways unlike any other thesp that comes to mind. This is supported by the fact that he looks so much like him. He’s only two inches shorter than Lincoln was (6’4”) sporting a similar lean, long limbed frame that created a major presence when he stood up. Lewis’ Lincoln is a clever tactician, knowing that to get what he wants for the nation’s sake, he simply cannot change his opponents minds about slavery. He must make them change their minds about themselves.

   Major support comes from his own wife, First Lady Mary Todd, whom Sally Field infuses with such pluckiness, it might scare you. Especially when she verbally abuses Tommy Lee Jones’ Thaddeus Stevens over a private matter at an evening dinner party. Fear is definitely not one of Mrs. Lincoln’s traits when dealing with her husband or any of his distinguished colleagues. In the few scenes she’s with him, it’s quite evident that her encouragement keeps Lincoln strong.

   At this writing Lincoln has been nominated for 12 Oscars, including best adapted screenplay for Tony Kushner. With a running time of just under 3 hours, the scribe bestows equal time to the rest of the talented ensemble(notably Tommy Lee Jones and David Strathairn), letting everyone shine, even if it’s for a short time.

   As always, Spielberg’s court composer John Williams provides an illustrious, appropriate score. It’s perfectly balanced rhythms enhance the various scenes, yet Williams is consistently wise enough not to overwhelm you or the film itself with them.

   Historians, history buffs and history teachers alike will obviously be wary about the variious “Hollywood” liberties taken concerning real facts and chiefly, character correctness.Notwithstanding, Lincoln’s primary focus is historically faithful regarding the very first U.S. government step on an extended pilgrimage towards Blacks being looked upon as human and eventually becoming American citizens.

1 thought on “Lincoln”

  1. Very informative! The personalization aspect of this is great, bringing in a tone that makes the movie’s mission tangible. The wordiness is smooth as well, talking about the 12 nominations (without judgment) and relaying the film’s impressive ensemble. Your inclusion of Field’s performance is key as well, because I believe she’s a lock for Best Supporting Actor for that role. Almost drew chills when she discusses her hardships about the loss of her son! Peculiar details are tended to in this review as well, right down to John Williams’ original score. This too, I would agree, is a very underrated facet of the film. It brought me back to Williams’ catchy rhythms in Jurassic Park (eloquent and complimentary to the film).

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