Lincoln (2012) – Steven Spielberg

Daniel Day-Lewis takes the titular role in Spielberg’s masterful film about the iconic president and his struggle to pass the 13th Amendment in support of his Emancipation Proclamation, even as the Civil War continues to tear the country apart.

Filled with themes and ideas that are still sad, and frighteningly relevant, this looks at a momentous time in American history and reveals that it wasn’t pulled off so easily as a few paragraphs in a history text would suggest.

There are political machinations at work, ploys, manipulation, and selfish motivation, all coming into play as Lincoln works to save the country from itself by curing it of its addiction to slavery, and its horrible treatment of fellow human beings based on skin colour.

The film is packed with recognizable names and faces, Sally Field plays Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd who mourns the death of one of her sons while worrying about her eldest, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) signing up to fight and meeting the same fate.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, a career politician who has a vested interest in seeing the amendment pass though he may not always approve of Lincoln’s work. Also featured are James Spader, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn, Gloria Ruben, Lee Pace, and Jared Harris.

The behind-the-scenes team is familiar, with music by John Williams, cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn, and scriptwriter Tony Kushner (who wrote Munich and has become a frequent collaborator) taking their usual places at Spielberg’s side.

From its opening showing the horror of the conflict that stained the nation, once again bringing history to vivid life as opposed to cold, stale facts and words to its heartbreaking climax that delivers news of Lincoln’s assassination, the film evokes a time of great importance with attention to detail and reality that makes it stand out as a masterpiece.

Lincoln was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Field), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Costume, Best Score, and Best Sound Mixing. In the end, the film only garnered two wins, Best Actor for Day-Lewis, and Best Production Design.

I love the themes and messages at work in the film, and the idea of some things being more important than one person’s needs and desires, that things can be for a greater good, and not just the greed or selfish motivations of a singular person. See, incredibly relevant.

This was one of only a few Spielberg films that I didn’t get a chance to see in the theatre. Honestly, despite his name being attached to it, it didn’t seem like it was a film that would be in my wheelhouse. I was wrong and rather enjoyed it, the look of it, the performances, the entire production.

I love Spielberg’s work.

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