Monday, January 28, 2013

Review of: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln

Tony Kushner's screenplay, adapted from historian Doris Kearns Goodman's book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, is the granite strong foundation for director Steven Spielberg's, Lincoln. Beautifully photographed, it is at turns poignant, funny, and educational without being dull.

Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, and Sally Field as Mary 'Molly' Todd-Lincoln, head a phenomenal cast who re-create the players of the era of our nation's civil war, and our 16th president without a single false step. The viewer is made privy to the horrors of war, the often ridiculous but necessary nature of legislature, and an intimate view of a commander in chief as a husband and father.

Even if it is in the aftermath of a tragedy, i am a firm believer in the adage 'everything happens for a reason'. Liam Neeson was originally cast to portray Lincoln, but later declined the role, purportedly of the belief he was not the right age. It was speculated by others at the time that the recently widowed Neeson was not ready to return to work. If the latter reasoning is accurate, while i am not for a moment suggesting Natasha Richardson's death was a good thing, i can't say that i am disappointed that Day-Lewis was the ultimate choice for the part. Day-Lewis was born to play this role. Every gesture, stride, and utterance is perfect.

There has been lots of buzz, and rightly so, about Tommy Lee Jones' performance as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. But there is an abundance of great cameos and character actors throughout. i don't want to give away too much about the specific performers, but i will give a tease: fans of Mad Men's portrayer of Lane Pryce and Justified's Boyd Crowder are in for a nice surprise.

Director Spielberg's pacing is so good the 2 & 1/2 hr running time never drags and did not for a moment feel too long. There are other choices he makes that make for an enriching movie going experience. One scene in particular is beautiful in it's subtlety. The President is meeting with his Secretary of State [played by David Strathairn] They are standing by a bookcase and Day-Lewis' face is reflected in it's glass. It's not a big moment, but the visual deftly conveys the subtext of the conversation---the duality and dilemma of doing what is right even if it must be achieved by doing something that may ethically be wrong.

Spielberg is one of the few directors who can tell a story whose outcome we already know, and still captivate and surprise us. i won't go into more detail as to what prompted that reaction, but when you see his Lincoln you will understand.

Lincoln now playing at your local cinema. Please check your listings for showtimes.

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