stories

Film of Abraham Lincoln promised a grand treatment

Lincoln

Released November 9, 2012

Films about Abraham Lincoln have been done before this one and they all anticipated a grand treatment of this hero of American justice.

I was expecting something monumental in Lincoln, a story about Abraham Lincoln’s political life from director Steven Spielberg. This film about him promised profundity and I was expecting the execution to be intriguing.

Profound in that Abraham Lincoln’s determination to end the sorry saga of war and slavery in America in the 1800’s was about doing the right and just thing against opposition and not beyond achieving. Just imagine as you are riveted to your seat anticipating every move in this story of justice that is long in coming.

But the story is complicated and historically heavy going. Historical details around the American Civil War and the slave issue get tossed about in the first half of the film like a salad without dressing. The film should appeal to those who can take historical movies as factual tracts.

This is not to prejudge what cinema should be, but that important pictures like these should at least be thoroughly engaging.

However, the film is not without its interesting parts. The folk working for Lincoln behind the scenes are a welcome change in pace to the formal political figures portrayed in the movie. They steam ahead to procure votes for the amendment that will release slaves. There are Christian-orientated values in this film of redemption and freedom from oppression (although one notes occasional religious profanity which might neutralize any Christian emphasis and hence the film might be more humanistic.)

As well, Daniel Day Lewis’ command of the presidential role is as though we’re watching the real Abraham Lincoln. Day Lewis buries himself in the nuances of Lincoln’s walk, accent, sense of humour, gift for storytelling, humanness, and deeper characterization, getting the detail as authentic as you could hope for, and making you want more. The actor has transformed before. His Oscar-winning performance in There Will be Blood is remarkably different from this one in Lincoln, but both are great.

John Williams composed the evocative, beautiful, and haunting music, and Janusz Kaminski’s photography is stunning. The production design was deservedly Oscar-bound. The war scene is realistically handled and not glamorized.

Lincoln director Steven Spielberg opens his film with a romantic shot of Abraham Lincoln. The reverential treatment is deserved, but the film overall is lacking a certain oomph.

 

Note: contains profanity. Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones. Screenplay: Tony Kushner, based in part on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns. Director: Steven Spielberg.

 

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers

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