Directed by Steven Spielberg
This is yet another post that I had already written, but lost when I lost my flashdrive. On the bright side, that means I get to celebrate President’s Day by posting about Lincoln, which is a happy coincidence. It’s a great movie about a great man. I feel like I’m gushing, and I’m sorry, but it really is an amazing movie.
So what’s the story? In the last days of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln wheels and deals and does everything he can in order to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which will abolish slavery in the United States forever. He has a deadline, however; if the South rejoins the Union before the amendment passes, they will defeat the amendment and keep slavery legal.
The Good: Daniel Day-Lewis does it again. The man is a chameleon. I could pass him on the street and not have a clue who he is because he always becomes his character. I felt like I was watching real footage of Abraham Lincoln. Before I started watching these Oscar-nominated movies, I thought Daniel Day-Lewis was overrated. I will never think that again. I cannot believe how amazing he is in this part.
I am rarely struck by makeup and hairstyling, but there are so many actors in Lincoln that I am familiar with – and I didn’t recognize any of them except for Tommy Lee Jones. Even Sally Field is practically unrecognizable. Everyone looks period-correct, and it is impressive. The costuming adds to this, of course. You can see the different classes and stations in society through the clothes, and I love it.
Speaking of actors, the supporting cast is fantastic. Sally Field makes a wonderful Mary Todd Lincoln. She shows all the complexities of the woman, including her awareness of how her illness made Lincoln’s life more difficult. Tommy Lee Jones always plays crusty men well, but he is also tender in his portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens. I don’t usually like James Spader, because he always makes me feel slimy, but since his character is slimy, he works so perfectly. I didn’t feel that anyone did a poor job. This is another perfectly-cast movie.
The production design and the sets were another aspect that made the movie historically believable. The rooms were low-ceilinged and dim, even during the day. Everything is slightly dingy, as if covered by the ash of the fires. There is mud and dirt and grime and that’s how life was then.
John William’s score is surprisingly subtle for him. It’s beautiful and stirring and simple and just right for a movie about a brave, simple man.
The Bad: There is nothing bad about this movie. Nothing bothered me about it at all, except perhaps Tommy Lee Jones’ wig, but Thaddeus Stevens had a bad wig in real life, so there wasn’t much choice there.
The Ugly: There are some short ugly war scenes and reminders of the cost of keeping the war going so that the amendment could pass, but that’s realism, not bad filmmaking.
Oscars Won: Best performance by an actor in a leading role (Daniel Day-Lewis); best achievement in production design.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best performance by an actor in a supporting role (Tommy Lee Jones); best performance by an actress in a supporting role (Sally Field); best achievement in directing; best writing, adapted screenplay; best achievement in cinematography; best achievement in film editing; best achievement in costume design; best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original score; best achievement in sound mixing.