A huge part of me regrets watching this film well past awards season. I had read a number of reviews, watched a number of YouTube interviews and witnessed (twice, on TV), Daniel Day-Lewis take home his third Oscar for this movie. In a nutshell, I felt as though I had ruined the ‘movie experience’ by doing such comprehensive research on ‘Lincoln’. In fact, I was coming into this experience armed with the prior expectation of a film that was ‘simply brilliant’… and it just felt so wrong.
But in truth, I had underestimated the power of film. Seeing excerpts and trailers is nothing compared to sitting back and watching the whole film from start to finish, as it is only when everything comes together does one realize the beauty and the reason behind the glowing reviews received by this movie.
Set in the last four months of Abe’s (Daniel-Day Lewis) life, the movie revolves around his fight to pass the Thirteen Amendment (which emancipates slaves) and to resolve the Civil War. It also reveals other sides to Abe’s personality and his role as father to Robert (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tad and husband to Mary Todd-Lincoln (Sally Field). The film is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
Yet despite being based on actual historical events, the movie is far from being classified as a History Channel documentary (no offense to History Channel :D), as a brilliant script by Tony Kushner and powerhouse acting by no less than THE Daniel Day-Lewis, prove to make Lincoln a film that reveals some unique insight into what Abe Lincoln must have been like when he was alive.
A laudable ensemble cast does an incredible job in bringing to life Kushner’s superb script (which in itself seems to have no hair out of place). Sally Field is equal doses bitchy, mad and brilliant as Abe’s other half, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a nice job of holding his own amidst a troupe of veteran thespians. Yet in my personal opinion it was Tommy Lee-Jones as Thaddeus Stevens who stole the show, delivering line after line with so much… indescribable oomph I found myself disappointed he didn’t take home the Oscar that I strongly felt he DESERVED for the part.
Although at the end of the day, it was truly the titular character who brought this film to life, as brilliant seems inadequate a word to describe Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance. Equal parts realistic and haunting, his portrayal of the late president surely brought chills to some spines as it was nothing less than convincingly real. I sometimes wonder why people seem to be quite dismissive of “method acting” because it definitely seems to work… at least in Day-Lewis’ case.
The two and a half hours you will spend watching the film will seem trivial once you find yourself engrossed, that is unless one is easily bored by political-sounding dialogue circa the 1800s. It takes an acquired taste with a long attention span to truly sit down and appreciate this film from start to finish, especially since someone adequately aware of the history behind the Thirteenth Amendment and the Civil War will find it well… boring. On the other hand, it might enlighten those who are unaware of this pivotal point in American history.
A part of me believes that this is one film that should make America proud of its history and thankful for those that helped shape it, as it serves to be a powerful reminder of the things that made the USA what it is today.