Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Tony Kushner
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Runtime: 150 min
A movie based on a well-known historical event cannot simply represent said event as it occurred and call it a day; one may as well be reading a history textbook. Something new must be brought to the experience, whether it is a unique perspective or a stunning performance. Lincoln contains what I refer to as “the Spielberg Magic”, or that which allows a political event to become a moving and fascinating film.
President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) struggles in his attempts to pass a constitutional amendment that will abolish slavery in the midst of the American Civil War. True Story.
This highly political film is firmly grounded in the performances of its lead actors. Daniel Day-Lewis crafts a captivating President Lincoln who offers a shining beacon of morality while maintaining a distinctly human quality, while Tommy Lee Jones creates a wholly enthralling and multi-faceted portrayal of fierce slavery opponent Thaddeus Stevens. Although the film opens with a gruesome scene of war, the action quickly moves from the battlefield to the courtroom. This deliberate emphasis demonstrates the weight of political events even amidst physical fighting and turmoil; indeed, enough drama is present even without reliance on action sequences for the film to remain tense and engaging. Director Steven Spielberg focuses not only on Lincoln, but on lesser-known characters such as Jones’ Stevens as well, providing the film with a humanism with which it is easy to relate. He also provides his characteristic sweeping camera pans and swelling musical interjections that allow an audience to become caught up in and emotionally involved with a familiar and often repeated story.
It is a well-established fact amongst those aware of the ways of the Academy that for a film to win Best Picture, it must also be nominated for Best Director. There have only been three exceptions to this rule, the latest being 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. A film must generally hold a nomination for Film Editing to be considered a contender for Best Picture as well. It may be said, then, that the Best Picture race will come down to three films: Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi, the only ones holding nominations in all three categories. Due to its stellar performances, not to mention its uplifting and blatantly pro American spirit, I believe the Academy will choose to recognize Lincoln as Best Picture; I would have no qualms with this decision, although I am secretly holding out for another film to achieve a surprise win. Actor in a Leading Role will likely go to Daniel Day-Lewis, and I would love to see Tommy Lee Jones win Actor in a Supporting Role although I believe this to be unlikely due simply to the strength of his category.
The Spielberg Magic never fails to disappoint, and the performances of the two male leads are highly impressive. Even proud Canadians cannot help but be caught up in the American patriotism of the film, and sometimes it should be fine to just accept manipulation and allow oneself to feel uplifted.