Last night I went to see Lincoln with my boyfriend. The film was not what I expected. Instead of focusing on the war effort or the life of the man, it mostly covered his push for the 13th Amendment to free the slaves.
Lincoln is often portrayed as a decisive figure, but he was actually quite reluctant and pragmatic. If he could have prevented war without freeing the slaves he would have but the South forced his hand. He was conflicted over whether to do the right thing by freeing the slaves with a Constitutional amendment or saving the Union by negotiating an end to the war. As it turns out, he managed both – even if he did not live to see implementation of post-war Reconstruction – and for that he will forever be remembered in American history.
To say that Lincoln is a dry film is an understatement. It is mostly about the behind-the-scenes processes of government and vote wrangling. The concern among Secretary of State Seward and the “Radical Republicans” in Congress is that the Emancipation Proclamation will be rejected by the courts after the war as nothing but a war measure. Democracy certainly is not always pretty, even for a prolific figure like Abe Lincoln. This is a movie for political and history geeks, which is no surprise given that it is based off of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals.
Yet Daniel Day Lewis manages a spectacular performance in his role as the 16th President of the United States. Lewis’ portrayal of a president with the burden of war upon his shoulders is somber, often exhausted and sleep-deprived, yet surprisingly upbeat due to his humor. Lewis shows both the passion of Lincoln and his humanity: losing a child, a wife suffering from depression and fatigue from the pressures of his office under the worst circumstances. He deserves an Academy Award for Best Actor.
4 out of 5