“Are we fitted to the times we’re born into?” A poignant question posed by Abraham Lincoln as portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”
Day-Lewis may very well have been born to play this role, or at least fitted to it. While credit goes to the make-up artists and costume designers who gave him Lincoln’s coarse unmanageable hair, high cheek bones, wrinkled skin and famous beard, it was Day-Lewis who brought the character to life. In choosing to depict Lincoln as a soft spoken, funny-yet-intense and powerful man who walked with a slight hunch, presumably compensating for his above average height, Day-Lewis seems to have captured Lincoln as he was in life.
Other stand-out characters are Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, played by Sally Field, and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones. There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast, though each played their character so well it was difficult to place the actors. Who knew that actors from TV shows and movies like “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Pushing Daisies” and “Bad News Bears” had such range?
The movie itself begins during the last few months of Lincoln’s presidency—the Civil War rages on and the country is anxious for peace. The real story is Lincoln’s finding a way to balance his desire to end the war with his decision to emancipate the slaves, all while dealing with his own cabinet’s disagreements, and his wife, who is still grieving the death of their son. We can leave its accuracy to the historians, but it made for a very compelling movie.
Even though everyone knows what happens, the tension leading up to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—giving freedom to the slaves—has you on the edge of your seat. Only Spielberg could take a historical fact and make it suspenseful. Spoiler alert: The amendment passed.
To call this movie epic would be placing it in the ranks of “Gone with the Wind,” “Titanic,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Avatar,” and perhaps that would be a bit of an overstatement, but I do see Academy Awards in its future.
It is fitting that “Lincoln” hit theaters on the weekend before Remembrance Day, Nov. 19, honoring those who gave their lives in the war as well as commemorating the Gettysburg Address. This year, on the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, Steven Spielberg was in attendance as the keynote speaker.
By Jennifer Franz