The best movie of the year has arrived, and it centers on our very own top hat wielding Abraham Lincoln. An epic dramatic tale of corruption, politics and the amendment that changed the course of history forever, directed by Steven Spielberg and portrayed by an all-star cast that rocked their period garb, this was destined to be a blockbuster from the start.
To be certain, there was reasonable doubt that it would fall flat of its high expectations, as several Spielberg projects have. Not to mention Lincoln’s unfortunate luck with theaters in general (see “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” and John Wilkes-Booth.) I worried that I would fall asleep as it very well could have been a dry drama. I was nervous that it would be over acted, historically incorrect and simply put, ridiculous.
I have never been happier to be wrong.
Lincoln not only delivered on the high expectations that were set, it exceeded them by miles. Between the cast, the plot and the production, “Lincoln” was an overwhelming success.
The film takes place in the important last months of Lincoln’s life. Lincoln found himself in between a rock and a hard place: immediately end the war or wait and end slavery at last. While struggling to procure 20 Democrat votes through less than ethical means, the president also faced heavy resistance within his own cabinet. The story writes itself, with every element of a good drama, and the all-important factor of historical significance.
While the story was a fantastic dramatic premise, Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner’s screenplay truly made it a tale worth hearing. The dialogue is historically accurate without being stifling, the rapport between the characters is entertaining and the major speeches of the film are brilliant.
Still, this film would have been nothing without the extraordinary cast who brought it to life. Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln was quiet, but demanding. He is a dynamic actor without a doubt, but many agree that he has never been so obviously in love with a part like that of the president. He is well known for his dedication to method acting, coming down with pneumonia on the set of “Gangs of New York” after refusing to wear a warmer coat. His commitment to character has won him numerous awards, but even his stellar performance in “There Will Be Blood” pales in comparison to his Lincoln. Suffice to say, Day-Lewis was Lincoln, without a doubt.
Day-Lewis’ performance was aided by equally impressive work from his co-stars. Nearly everyone in the film adeptly carried their weight, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a very attractive Robert Lincoln. Sally Field shined as the neurotic Mary Todd Lincoln, humanizing her to a degree I had never considered before and actually making her seem like a somewhat normal person.
However, it was Tommy Lee Jones who very nearly stole the show as the gruff but good-hearted Thaddeus Stevens. He commands the screen in every scene he plays, and his monologues chock full of name-calling and Democrat insults are some of the best in the film. Beneath his comically grizzled exterior, it is apparent that Stevens is the only character who really understands the complete idea of racial equality. Don’t let the wig distract you, there is a superbly developed character beneath it. I’m confident that Jones’ performance will earn him a nod for supporting actor this award season, as he really deserves it.
Overall, “Lincoln” is a masterpiece, far from your average biopic drama. The performances are some of the best the silver screen has seen this year. Expect to see it mentioned at every awards show come red carpet season. As an Illinois resident, you owe it to yourself to go see “Lincoln.”