Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” is a historical account of the concluding months of the 16th United States president’s life. The majority of the film is devoted to the passing of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed any and all slavery. Lincoln must have sufficient votes in the House of Representatives for the amendment to be adopted, while at the same time, fighting against the Confederacy for the end of slavery. Meanwhile, Lincoln deals with family issues between his wife, Mary Todd and their oldest son, Robert, who has just left Harvard and has become a personal attendant to Ulysses S. Grant.
One of the most remarkable things about “Lincoln” is how this film’s actors all inhabit their roles in such a believable and complex way that you forget that they’re even actors portraying historical figures. In this 140-person cast, which includes Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn and Hal Holbrook, perhaps the most unique in this cast is the leading performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln himself. Best known for his Oscar-winning performance as Christy Brown in “My Left Foot,” you could almost say Day-Lewis is Lincoln. He portrays Lincoln as more than simply a well-known history icon and adds a lot of real emotional depth and a sense of humor to Lincoln, so much so that it almost seems like he really evokes the real Abraham Lincoln. There is no question that Day-Lewis will definitely receive another Oscar nomination for Best Actor this year.
Another important thing to think about is how Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner and the other crewmembers studied the life of Lincoln and “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s account of the President, religiously to make the definitive Abraham Lincoln movie. The art direction and sets, supervised by production designer Rick Carter and set decorator Jim Erickson, is an important example of attention to detail. For example, the Executive Mansion office set used in this movie is an exact replica of the real building used by Lincoln during his presidency, complete with the actual books and wallpaper.
The usual Spielberg crew is also involved: editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and composer John Williams. Williams’ music score is, as always, emotionally powerful and effective and really reminds you of his score in “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Kaminski films his shots with a sense of feeling and depth, particularly in the shots focusing on Lincoln. There are even a few shots that last a short amount of time without a cut. Overall, this movie is easily a running candidate for the Oscars this year and really shows a real sense of compassion towards Abraham Lincoln.
(Originally written and published on November 22, 2012)
Video Review: Lincoln