LINCOLN (Steven Spielberg, 2013)
"I am President of United States of America, clothed in immense power. You will procure me these votes," exclaims Daniel Day-Lewis as a battle-weary Abraham Lincoln during an intense scene in Steven Spielberg's stirring biopic.
And indeed, do not dare deny Mr. President of his prized 13th amendment, otherwise find yourself reminded one way or another who he is. But unlike any other leader, Lincoln got what he wanted by the power of his persuasion, and he reasoned his way into eventually abolishing slavery and ending the civil war.
At first, LINCOLN may be hard to sit through, with Tony Kushner's lengthy dialogues and Spielberg's long takes. However as the story unfolds, Spielberg unveils his subject to actually be a normal human being not only on the verge of the most important milestone in his career, but also trying to reconcile the dissenting wants of his son and wife. A civil war rages on and his son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to do his part for the country. Meanwhile, his wife (Sally Field) strongly opposes to the idea knowing they may well be sending their child to his imminent death. Despite all the debates and the politics, we constantly see Lincoln's family members and household onscreen. Spielberg has painted Lincoln as a leader who also values the basic unit of society by cherishing his own.
The journey that led to a climactic vote to abolish slavery is long and tedious, and Spielberg made us feel that way. The debate, which was filled with surprises served as a triumph not only for the people of the United States but also for the purposes of cinematic merit for it reminded us as audiences how close it came for fear, and hatred, and prejudice to prevail. What will the world be today if Lincoln did not push for the 13th amendment?
LINCOLN I think may be the best interpretation one can hope for about the beloved President, and Daniel Day-Lewis disappeared completely into Lincoln's shoes, uttering his dialogue with conviction, and extending grand gestures with bravura. Meanwhile, Sally Field as Lincoln's better half is nothing short of great. Tommy Lee Jones is also admirable as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens who packs a surprise of his own by film's end.
It's hard to keep track of the political discourse throughout the movie, and this might be Spielberg's most conversational film to date (add more dialogue and he may become Quentin Tarantino), yet LINCOLN pays off with greater cinematic reward in the end than last year's WAR HORSE. Nevertheless, what matters is the basic idea of how Lincoln navigated a political maze, and the way Spielberg presented Lincoln's story never fails to inspire, especially in the finale. It was a bit unexpected for me, but the way it was shot and presented triggered some goosebumps. Spielberg can still make us believe in the power of humanity. Lincoln may be long gone but his legacy lives forever.