In this amazing film not yet released nationwide (November 16th) and only released in two movie theaters in the Greater New York City Area Steven Spielberg does what many have tried to capture but have failed valiantly at doing making President Abraham Lincoln human. In other words Goodwin, Spielberg and the cast prove that Honest Abe like Washington before him did not shy away from lies or hiding the truth. Knowing that the two actors vying for the lead role were Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis I take the position that the latter will likely go down as his generation’s greatest actor having played three timeless roles in a matter of 10 years which will be used to measure future actors’ devotion to the craft out shining even Robert De Niro.
Based on the historical study of Lincoln’s cabinet based on Dorris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which documents Democrats and Republicans both conservative and liberal vying for position of power during our nation’s most fractious era. The timing of the release coincides with the 150th anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation but also seems to serve as some form of political memo to President Obama (Lincoln being his hero) on the consequences of compromise in his second term of office.
For those of you who know little of Lincoln outside of stupid car salesmen dressing as him for President’s Day promotional sales or over exaggerated and poorly read betrayals of the Gettysburg Address (which was read as a somber eulogy and was so brief that when it was finished being read and tucked back into President Lincoln’s top hat the audience present had no idea it was over), the human that is Lincoln gets lost in the lies your teachers have told you over the years. Lincoln joked about death, jested and sparred over intellectual prowess with friends and foes and admitted on many occasions to being an arbiter of just criminal actions. This movie provides the audience in to little known facts about the man; the most important being is that Lincoln understood the fallacies in some of his executive actions. Particularly in the four months up to and leading into the day of the House of Representatives’ vote on the 13th Amendment (Taking emissaries of the south prisoner, offering small federal positions to muster the vote in his favor, even personal intimidation).
The cast is a venerable who’s who of acting as stated before Daniel Day-Lewis plays yet another career defining role and Sally Fields playing Mary Todd “Molly” Lincoln uses the same abilities that made me hate her character as the fun spoiling, heartless goon of a spouse in Mrs. Doubtfire, effectually brings out the irritating feeling many felt towards the real Mrs. Lincoln when she was a live. Mary Todd Lincoln was daughter to a plantation owner from Kentucky who personified the very stereotypes; overfed, self-interested, eccentric and fiery, that Abolitionists like Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Played brilliantly by Tommy Lee Jones) championed against. David Russell Strathairn (The Borne Ultimatum/Legacy & Good Night, and Good Luck the latter role he was nominated for an Oscar) plays Lincoln’s bulldog Secretary of State William Seward. James Spader works a well-balanced comedic and theatrical tight rope routine in his supporting role. I miss you Robert California…I digress. The film also stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception & Looper), Bruce McGill and Jared Harris (Formerly of MadMen) as well as other familiar faces.
Watching this two-hour long period piece (NOT A BIOPIC) as the title would have you believe; a more apt title would be “We’re Freeing the Slaves Now So F*#@ You South!”, is worth every penny. I am actually going again next week because like in every great movie it’s the ability to direct the story line that wins hearts and minds. So here’s to the Republic! Cheers!