Kish and I saw Lincoln yesterday. It’s a wonderful movie, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.
I don’t have much to add to Richard’s excellent, thoughtful review of the film. Daniel Day-Lewis was terrific as Lincoln. For an actor, what role could be more difficult than bringing real life touches to an iconic figure most Americans now see less as a human being, and more as a colossal marble statue? Under the masterful direction of Steven Spielberg, and with the able assistance of some fine actors and great sets and scenery, the film creates a realistic, tobacco-spitting, bewhiskered and ball gown-wearing, deeply racist, embarrassingly eloquent, and entirely believable depiction of America during the Civil War. Sure, Sally Field was too old to play Mary Todd Lincoln, but that casting clinker can’t take away from an otherwise exceptionally well done movie.
My only complaint is not about the acting or the production value, but about the script. The story told by the film was not the story of Lincoln’s life, but rather the story of Lincoln’s resolve to secure passage of the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery before the Civil War ended — and his deft politicking to achieve that goal. So why, then, couldn’t the movie end with Lincoln enjoying that success? Why must every Lincoln movie proceed to the heartbreak of his assassination and the solemn pronouncement that “now he belongs to the ages”?
I recognize that Lincoln’s martrydom is an essential part of the Lincoln saga, but that doesn’t mean we have to be hit over the head with that fact whenever Lincoln is mentioned. How refreshing it would have been to see the movie end with Lincoln enjoying his triumph! We would still know that death awaited him, of course — every American knows that to their core — but seeing him relishing a satisfying and historic victory would have exposed a different facet of the man.