Lincoln, 2012, USA
Lincoln follows the last four months of Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) life and his work to pass the 13th amendment, ending slavery in the United States. This amendment is not without controversy, as even some of those working closest with Lincoln feel that this amendment is the wrong way to go about things, and that ending the Civil War first is best. Lincoln also faces challenges within his personal life; his wife, Mary (Sally Field) is mentally unstable and still grappling with the loss of their son, Willie, and her fears of losing their son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), should he join the Union Army.
The film is very much a political thriller as well as a biopic. It’s quite tense at times, and it can be difficult to follow if one is not overly familiar with the story. I’m Canadian, and I must admit that I didn’t know who the major political players in the film were, other than Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris). I knew the “ending” of the film, but I had very limited knowledge of how we got to it. While I did have great difficulty keeping track of names, I was able to recognize faces, so the film remained accessible to me. It also meant that I had the privilege of not knowing what would happen next until I got to the very end of the film. I’ve been researching the major characters, as well, because I’m very interested in the events surrounding the passing of the 13th amendment. To my American friends: were the names/histories of the major politicians in the film ones that are common knowledge?
Day-Lewis was absolutely spectacular in the movie. As always, he buried himself deep in the role and became President Lincoln. He’ll certainly be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, and I think he has a good shot at nabbing his third Oscar. He’s truly the best actor working today, in my mind. He portrayed President Lincoln in a rather understated manner, with a surprising amount of wit. History has made President Lincoln larger than life; Day-Lewis brings him down to Earth. He’s human, he’s flawed and he’s passionate.
I would also love to see Tommy Lee Jones nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He portrays Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican who doesn’t just want to see the 13th amendment passed; he wants to see racial equality in all respects, not just under the law. Jones portrays him as a man who is torn between staying true to his beliefs and compromising in order to see the amendment passed. I loved his character, and I loved him portrayal of Mr. Stevens.
As expected, Steven Spielberg directed the film masterfully. I feared that I would find the subject matter dry, but him and his amazing cast kept the film engaging, tense and ultimately, very moving. While I expected to see the assassination on-screen, Spielberg wisely decided not to film it. There have been so many cultural depictions of Lincoln’s assassination, that we all have the event burned in our minds. The way he did handle it was far more tragic. I did feel that the film ended a little bit abruptly, though. I was expecting some sort of end card providing some context about the end of the Civil War, though, since it didn’t happen until over a year after his death, I suppose I understand why Spielberg didn’t include this.
A lack of common sense
I’ve complained in the past about parents who bring very young children to movies they should not be watching, but the lack of common sense displayed during my screening just astounded me. A mother and father who sat in front of me brought their infant son, and roughly two-year-old son to the screening! I can understand the infant, as he could have very well slept through the entire film (he didn’t), but a two-year-old would be terribly bored and quite justifiably restless during a two and a half hour film! This was not a children’s film in any way, shape or form!
Even worse, the two-year-old was wearing those sneakers that light up when one walks, so every time he stamped his feet, bright white light shone right into my eyes. It was infuriating. Luckily, the mother finally had the sense to take the two children out of the theatre, only to return. Once back in the theatre, the kids started fussing again, so she took them out and, luckily, stayed out for the duration of the movie.
So, three of the four members of the family missed the majority of the movie. Wouldn’t it have been a better use of their entertainment dollar to hire a babysitter and leave the kids at home? That way, they wouldn’t be annoying everyone around them, and they could actually enjoy the entire film. I really should have said something to the father after the movie ended, but I’m not a confrontational person, so I just glared at him as he left the theatre.