Who was the greatest American president? If you said James K. Polk, you're 100 % correct.
But a close second is Abraham Lincoln. There are a lot of people on the internet, aka the cesspool of humanity, that like to knock Lincoln off his pedestal, and say things like "He didn't REALLY hate slavery!" or "He was a TYRANT!" or "What's up with that BEARD?"
To those people I say: shut up, morons.
Yes, it's true that Lincoln has become a mythic figure, and that there is a more human, flawed side to that myth. But don't be a silly idiot. Lincoln was a great man, and a great president, and if you don't believe me, read a fucking book or two.
Sadly there haven't be many great films about the great man (except, of course, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure). People have tried, and made valiant efforts. But no film really seemed to take Lincoln from a marble statue and turn him into a living, breathing man.
LINCOLN, the latest film from Steven "the Beard" Spielberg, takes a unique approach to the story of the 16th president of the United States. Rather than your standard cradle-to-the-grave biopic, LINCOLN focuses instead on a period near the end of the Lincoln's presidency and life: specifically, the period where Lincoln is trying to get the 13th Amendment passed, thus ending slavery.
The Civil War is dying down, and the Union has all but declared victory. This is a mixed blessing for Lincoln: it's obviously great that the war is ending, however, he fears that once the war is completely ended, there will be no real rush to abolish slavery, and he'll have no chance getting his amendment passed. So, Lincoln tasks Secretary of State William Seward (a wonderful and warm David Strathairn) with rounding up three men (John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson and James Spader--all fantastic, especially Spader, who steals every scene he's in) with gathering enough votes to pull the whole thing off.
|Be excellent to each other....and PARTY ON, DUDES!|
Lincoln also has to reign in fiery abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones, who gives one of the best performances of his career). Stevens is seen as a "radical," and his outbursts could derail the whole process.
This movie is a delight to behold. It never feels dull, or slow. Every scene crackles with energy, thanks to Spielberg's rather reserved direction, Tony Kushner's fire-cracker of a script, and top-of-their-game performances from literally the entire cast.
But of course, the real attraction here is Daniel Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis is one of the best actors we have, and he seems to turn in "career best" performances in every single role he takes (with the weird misfire of the dull musical NINE). And once again, he comes through. Day-Lewis becomes Lincoln. We will never REALLY know how Lincoln talked, and walked, and acted--but watching Day-Lewis is probably the closest we'll ever get. His Lincoln is a tender, reserved man, with a high voice and a rumpled, unkempt appearance. And he loves to tell stories. Any time Lincoln wants to get a point across to his squabbling cabinet members, he regals them with a humour story, and you can't help but hang on every word. The real Lincoln suffered from depression, and his humor helped him work through the melancholy feelings that overcame him. Day-Lewis understands that, and embodies it fully.
|Lincoln makes blankets a fashion statement.|
There's also a brief shot near the end where the image of Lincoln appears inside the flame of a lantern that is almost painfully corny and on-the-nose, but thankfully it ends before you can roll your eyes too much. And while we're on the subject of the end, personally I think Spielberg could've ended things before the assassination (SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!). He makes a wise choice by having the assassination happen off-screen, but before the whole sequence, we are left with the image of Lincoln saying goodbye to his staff, uttering the words "I would like to stay, but I fear I must go," and quietly walking out of the White House, bathed in shadows. In my humble opinion, that would've been a perfect spot to cut to the credits. But the extra stuff doesn't diminish the impact of the film, so I can't complain too much.
|"You're gonna love this next scene; it ends with a real BANG!"|
Until someone invents a time machine, we'll never really be able to see Abraham Lincoln as a living, breathing person. So while we wait for that day, this film will be the best option we have.
I give LINCOLN Four out of Four Stovepipe Hats.