Stephen Spielberg’s epic take on Abraham Lincoln’s fight to abolish slavery can be described simply as a cinematic masterpiece. Penned by Tony Kushner (from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best selling novel) with a magnificent intrepid cast, it is unquestionably one of THE best movies of the year. The Academy Award for Best Actor is Daniel Day-Lewis’s for the taking with his steely breath-taking portrayal of the President.
Although even as a newly ‘baptized’ American I had been aware of Lincoln’s magnificent achievement that he managed before his untimely assassination, I was totally unaware of the fascinating skull-duggery behind the scenes to ensure that this, the 13th Amendment to our Constitution, had enough votes to be passed by the House pf Representatives. Congressmen were badgered, threatened, bought off or justly bribed outright in this fiercely partisan House. It all seemed a little like deja vu from where I was sitting.
Whilst he must manipulate this discreetly via his heavy handed ‘lobbyists behind his scenes, there is also great pressure of him to both negoiate peace with the Rebel Forces by one faction, whilst the opposition thinks the war should be fought to the bitter end. And then at home in The White House the President must also deal with his highly-strung wife who is still grieving for the loss of one son, and is determined that another one will not be allowed to enlist in the Army.
To me this is Hollywood film-making at its very finest. Spielberg is unsurpassable at these epic American dramas, and Irishman Mr Day Lewis has carved such a niche with his awe-inspiring Award-winning performances of these historical figures. I have read all those reports of his extreme ‘method acting’ when he lives the character off screen at all …. well if they are true, they have paid off big time. He is simply breath-taking to watch every single minute he is on view. It’s not often that one has the luxury of watching a whole movie with a Miami audience in total silence (!) but this one, thanks to Mr Day Lewis, awe-inspiringly numbed them for the entire 150 minutes.
Credit too for such an exalted supporting cast headed by a wonderfully funny Tommy Lee Jones as the irascible Thadeus Stevens a Republican Leader and committed abolitionist , Joseph Gordon Levatt as Lincoln’s son Robert, David Strathairn as The Secretary of State. etc etc. Sally Field did her sterling best as the unhinged Mary Lincoln but somehow seemed mis-matched with Mr Day Lewis.
It’s a truly magnificent period in this country’s history and this movie acknowledges that and treats it with all the respect that it so rightly deserves. TOTALLY UNMISSABLE
P.S. On a point of order, can someone tell this uninformed ex Brit when did the Republicans become the ‘baddies’ and swap roles with the Democrats?