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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lincoln - A Review

We saw the new movie "Lincoln" today.  SPOILER ALERT - The South loses the war.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)  Seriously, this was an excellent movie.  We were in a large theater and it was nearly full.  Interestingly, the median age of the patrons was probably about 45.  I think there was a senior center that brought a bus load of senior citizens, but there were plenty of other people there too.

The movie is long - about 2 1/2 hours, but it was worth every minute.  I can't imagine what could have been cut.  It's a highly intelligent movie showing Abraham Lincoln's tremendous struggles in leading the United States through a time of social upheaval in the midst of the most devastating war in American history.  It isn't the story of his life, but a short snapshot, probably the last 6 months of his life (which ended five days after the Civil War ended).  Even though the war was the most significant backdrop in this film, it is definitely not a war movie (although there are a few gruesome shots of dead soldiers).  Instead, the film is about the difficulties Lincoln had in bringing the war to an end.  The goal of every character in the movie was to end the war, without giving up too much of life as they knew it.  The movie is very political - not in making a political statement, but in revealing the politics of the day.

Daniel Day Lewis is sure to be nominated for an Oscar for his performance of Abraham Lincoln.  He showed Lincoln's practically insurmountable barriers he faced to achieve his dual goals: ending the war while ending the issue at the heart of the conflict - slavery.  He was a political genius.  He knew how to work people and manipulate the events in order to advance his position.

Sally Field does an amazing job as Mary Todd Lincoln, who history has depicted as a fragile crazy woman.  Field's Mary Todd Lincoln is much more involved in supporting Lincoln in his political decisions, even attending the debates in the House of Representatives.  Her weakness is her children, especially the Lincoln's middle child, Willie, who died several years before the movie takes place.  If balancing a war, dealing with an enormous social evil and working the political process wasn't enough for Abraham Lincoln, he still had to protect his sensitive wife.

This Steven Spielberg film features many talented actors.  First and foremost is Tommy Lee Jones who plays Representative Thaddeus Stevens.  There are so many others - James Spader as W.N. Bilbo, a slick lobbyist; David Strathaim as Secretary of State Seward; Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair, a wealthy political influencer; and Joseph Gordon-Levit as Lincoln's oldest son, Robert.  There are great performances from each of them.  Somebody's sure to win something for this movie.

A couple of things to know before going to this movie.  First, it's not a movie for kids and probably most teenagers.  It's not that gory, but the dialogue is typical for the period, which means it can be difficult to understand.  There is also more dialogue than action.  Second, it can be confusing, but the Lincoln's Republican Party is the Democrat Party of today, and the Democrat Party of Lincoln's day is the Republican Party today.  If you understand that going into the movie, it can be helpful in seeing how the political philosophies haven't changed much.

Four stars for me!