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Steven Spielberg has gone beyond his love of action adventure to become a master at setting the stage for historical drama. With previous films “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” under his belt, Spielberg now brings one of the giants of American history to the screen in “Lincoln.”
The film is full of Oscar-caliber performances, direction and staging as audiences get a peek back in time to see a pivotal moment in American history, the passage of the 13th Amendment.
The Civil War continues to loom over a divided America. Lincoln, adamant in his stance against slavery, does everything within his means to pass the 13th Amendment, erasing slavery from America.
Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will be Blood”) captures the essence of the tall, soft-spoken man who stood up for what he believed in with quiet wisdom. Lewis disappears into Lincoln so we see the president and not the actor.
For the most of the film, he also looks the part. There are a few close ups where the makeup is not as convincing, but the rest of the film feels like looking into the face of Honest Abe.
Audiences also get a glimpse of what Lincoln might have been like as a father and husband, as well as a person who interjected well placed stories to prove a point.
Throughout the film there is timely humor. Tommy Lee Jones (“Men in Black 3”) plays equal rights proponent Thaddeus Stevens. He says exactly what he thinks and his no-holds-barred discussions in the House creates many humorous moments.
The lobbyists in charge of procuring enough Democratic votes to pass the Republican-backed amendment also are funny. They are played by Josh Hawkes (“Winters Bone”), Time Blake Nelson (“Oh Brother Where Art Thou”) and James Spader (TV’s “The Office”). Spader’s sloppy yet determined character brings a lot of humor to intense situations.
Lincoln’s sons, Robert and Tad, are well played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“The Dark Knight Rises”) and Gulliver McGrath (“Dark Shadows”). Both performances give insight on Lincoln as more than a president but also a father.
I read Spielberg spent several years researching for this film to get the scope correct. The look and feel of the film transports audiences back to the Civil War and the importance of the decisions being made.
He based much of the film on the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Spielberg felt his subject matter needed so much respect that he skipped his usual directing attire of an old T-shirt and baseball cap and suited up for this film, I read. He also addressed the actors as their character names to keep them focused on the task.
Sally Field (“The Amazing Spider Man”), David Strathairn (“The Bourne Legacy”), Jack Earle Haley (“Dark Shadows”), Jared Harris (“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”), Lee Pace (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2”), Gloria Reuben (TV’s “E.R.”) and the always wonderful Hal Holbrook (“Water for Elephants”) finish off the massive ensemble cast.
It’s a must see for anyone who is a history buff or appreciates great directing of a good cast. I expect it also will get much recognition during the awards season.
“Lincoln” is a great look into the passion and personality of one of this nation’s finest presidents. Skip the vampires of Twilight this weekend and go see “Lincoln.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For movie reviews visit her reporter page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Becca-Owsley/96924584861.