Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lincoln (2012)

In the film's opening scene, a black soldier comes up to Lincoln and respectfully asks for equality for his race. He hopes: "in a few years perhaps they (White people) can abide the idea of Negro lieutenants and captains. In fifty years, maybe a Negro colonel. In a hundred years - the vote." He couldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams that in a little more than 150, America would have a Black President. Lincoln's cultural and historical significance is astonishing. It makes sense why the release date was played around with, so it won't be used as a vehicle by either parties to gain political mileage during the recent Presidential elections. And Lincoln was a Republican.    

It is not often that a film makes you respect a character who you knew almost nothing about. I would liken my experience to watching Devar Magan, where I couldn't keep my clasped hands from going up with reverence during the final scene. Lincoln is like that. You don't see the grey sides to him, but do we really have to see some negative traits when, chances are, they never prominently existed? 

An interesting attribute to Lincoln is that he has a story for every argument or discussion. This is not a movie about Lincoln's childhood or about his losing the many elections before finally becoming the president. He has seen the horrors of war and the underbelly of Washington politics. He has even lost his son to one, making him all the more protective towards his youngest. The man has lead a full life now. His stories are such good companion pieces to the point he is trying to drive home. There's even a funny scene where one character shouts out in bewilderment as Lincoln begins to tell another one of his stories.  

There were some complaints about the film's length and that kept me from watching it at home. But surprisingly, the pacing is excellent. The dialogues are so well written that your attention never wanders. Opening with the presidential inauguration, the film immediately jumps into Lincoln's plans to table the 13th amendment in the house of Representatives. He may be the most loved person in every room he's in, but his first term was completely shrouded by the devastating Civil War. This one historic piece of legislation could be his legacy. Like this year's Argo, the film leads to a nerve-wracking high, where despite knowing the outcome, you hang on to every last syllable, with your heart beating like crazy. 

Lincoln is an important movie. It focuses on only a few months of his life but it still is the Gandhi of this decade. It needed to exist so the world could know what a great man he was. I think we can trust Kushner for depicting the events with sufficient accuracy. Like many of Spielberg's previous films, the victory is balanced with a sense of loss. Enough blood has been spilled. The fact that this bill wouldn't have passed for a long time if not for Lincoln gives the whole aspect an extra gravitas. This is a wholesome movie. That the movie delves deep on Lincoln's relationship with this wife Mary Todd was itself a nice touch and makes for some truly marvelous scenes.  

Daniel Day-Lewis gives a performance to last for eternity. From the slight slouch to the voice, he nails it on all points. His imposing stature could make anyone go weak in the knees as he lovingly places his hand on someone's shoulders or refers to them by their first name. He *is* Abe Lincoln. He is supported by an excellent cast, one of the best ever assembled. I don't recall seeing so many known faces in a movie before. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson,  Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lukas Haas, Dane DeHaan, David Costabile and Adam Driver. Phew. I simply had to write that down.

Kaminski, Williams and Kahn.. they all deliver. This is a great movie. Damn. It really is. Lincoln is the most fun you'll have in a history class. It is enlightening and wildly entertaining for such a wordy movie.