Lincoln [Celluloid Hero]
After spending his early life as a vampire hunter, Abraham Lincoln went to a career in politics that you may have read about. This isn’t a pure biopic in the sense of following Lincoln from birth to youth to maturity to death, instead focusing on a very specific, very prolific, and very important period of his presidency.
In 1865, the Civil War was winding down, and President Lincoln is preparing to pass the constitutional amendment to ban slavery. However, he is worried that if he does not pass the amendment before the end of the war, the southern states will simply overturn the Emancipation Proclamation. The movie focuses on the political strategy to ensure that members of his party vote to support him, and trying to convince members of the opposition to take his side.
Admittedly, I’m not much of a historian. I’m sure that if I were, I would’ve appreciated some more of the nuances, more of the characters, more of the political intrigue. There were times where the legislative process started to bog me down, where I just got lost in “wait, who is that guy? why are they talking to him?” moments, but Spielberg was able to keep those rather sparse and paint a broad enough picture without feeling like an elementary school history class.
I’m obviously not the first one to point this out, but Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible. He’s not a human actor, he’s some sort of shape-shifting alien or a time traveler or something. He’s achieved the level of acting where I forget that I’m watching an actor, and actually feel like Abe Lincoln was on the screen. The rest of the cast was stellar as well, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt to Tommy Lee Jones to Lee Pace. There are also a ton of lesser supporting roles filled with familiar faces. I did feel that Sally Field’s role as Mary was a bit melodramatic; I have read that both Lincolns suffered mental problems after the death of two of their children, but Field didn’t play any of the anguish inside, she put it all right out in the open.
“Lincoln” was nominated for twelve Oscars, winning two (Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Best Achievement in Production Design). With an elite director like Spielberg assembling an A-list ensemble cast portraying arguably the greatest President in our history, it would be nearly impossible to end up with a bad product. At times, though, it felt like it was made as Oscar-bait, created just for prestige and awards. Still, can you really fault a movie for being “too good”?
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Lincoln” gets a 7 out of 10.