My husband and I spent a couple of days in Springfield earlier this year.
We were always surrounded by images of, and references to, Lincoln. Both of us grew up in small towns in Illinois, and of course our first license plates bore the “Land of Lincoln” motto. When we were visiting Springfield, we learned more about Lincoln’s life and times, and we were fascinated with the incredible achievements and tragedies affecting this president.
About a week after we returned from Springfield, I read that Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” would open within a few months. It’s been a long time since I’ve anticipated a movie on such a personal level, and “Lincoln” did not disappoint me.
The first thing potential viewers need to know is that this is less of a biography and more of a political drama. It’s a lot of talk, and very little action. The dialogue-driven story takes place over four months, as Lincoln and his team strategize about the best way to end the Civil War and to pass the 13th Amendment to lead to abolition of slavery. (And what a time for this movie about politics to surface: At the end of a hotly contested presidential election.)
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Daniel Day-Lewis is picture perfect as Lincoln. Spielberg wisely poses Day-Lewis in profiles and silhouettes that resemble existing photographs of Lincoln — these moments will seem familiar to anyone who has a passing knowledge of Lincoln’s life, and, I should think, even more familiar to history buffs. He speaks in a higher pitch to lend authenticity to his character, and he stands, stooped and old before his time, just as we see Lincoln in photos.
You’ll see a lot of familiar performers here: Sally Field is Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Robert Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as the stubborn, outspoken Republican congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward, Jackie Earle Haley as Confederate States Vice President Alexander H. Stephens and Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair, who tried to make peace between the Confederacy and the Union.
In 1993, “Schindler’s List,” Spielberg crafted a beautiful film that is a tribute to an extraordinary man. He has done it again in one of the year’s best movies.