Release Year: 2012
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Tony Kushner (screenplay), Doris Kearns Goodwin (book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Joseph Cross, Jared Harris, Lee Pace
Rating: Won 2 Oscars: Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Production Design. Nominated for 10 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Sally Field), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Score, Best Sound Mixing. Won 1 Golden Globe: Best Actor – Drama (Daniel Day-Lewis). Nominated for 6 Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Sally Field), Best Screenplay, Best Original Score.
In the final months of the U.S. civil war, Lincoln rallies his cabinet to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, which will put a definitive end to slavery, in the midst of great political opposition.
Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, 1998) has a wonderful talent for making entertainment movies, whether big adventurous spectacles of what he likes to call “talking pictures”, of which Lincoln is a fine example. Based on the massive book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by eminent U.S. historian Dories Kearns Goodwin, the film manage to make a political struggle happening far from the bloody battlefields just as intense as if bullets were flying through Congress. Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, 2008) gives another stunning performance as one of the most iconic presidents in his final year, war-weary and worn from being burdened by the yoke of responsibly in the most troubled years of his country’s history. For once, we see a portrayal of Lincoln close to how he was described by contemporaries; tall and stooping and with a high-itched, raspy voice. Day-Lewis also gives him a warmth and father-like quality which makes the devotion of the people all the more understandable without painting him like a saint. He is surrounded by an excellent cast. Especially Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005) impresses as the abolisionist Thaddeus Stevens. The cast also includes Sally Field (Forrest Gump, 1994) as Mrs. Lincoln, Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, 2011) as general Ulysses S. Grant, and David Strathairn (Goodnight, and Good Luck, 2005) as Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward. The film is an epic political drama that manages to including scenes of war, domestic trouble, and the personal grief of Lincoln without losing sight of its subject. The mix of Lincoln portrayal and the, at times funny, goings on behind the political scene feels odd at times, but the score and production design is absolutely beautiful and the film ends on a strong emotional note, leaving an after image of Abraham Lincoln bound to raise the already high esteem for the icon held by many. Highly recommendable and unmissable for history buffs.
Steven Spielberg spent 12 years researching the film and recreated Lincoln’s Executive Mansion office precisely, including the same wallpaper and the books Lincoln used. Even the ticking of the watch is the sound of Lincoln’s actual pocket watch, which is housed at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, Kentucky. It is the watch he wore when he was assassinated.
Picture Copyright: SF Film