Rarely is a historical drama equally illuminating and captivating. Steven Spielberg’s latest production, “Lincoln,” is an exception.
Daniel Day-Lewis returns to the big screen for the first time in three years as Abraham Lincoln. Thefilm is not a biographical scope of Lincoln’s entire life as one might expect. Instead, it centers on the trials he faced while pushing for the passage of the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery.
Lincoln is joined by his mentally-ill wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), and their son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who decides to join the Union Army despite opposition from his parents.
Set during the final months of the Civil War, the real battles in “Lincoln” are fought inside the House of Representatives.
Faced with little time, Lincoln and his party must diligently work to procure enough votes for the passage of his amendment in a nation full of ignorance and racism. As the war comes to a close, Lincoln knows if he cannot pass the amendment before the Confederacy rejoins the union, the amendment will fail.
Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Lincoln is faultless. He is virtually unrecognizable in character, transforming into Lincoln in every way imaginable. Known for tirelessly researching and living as the characters he portrays, Day-Lewis masters the gentle wit and overall brilliance of the nation’s 16th president.
Most striking about his representation is the voice he gives Lincoln. Audiences may be a surprised to hear Lincoln speak with a high, somewhat nasally Kentucky accent. Day-Lewis spent a great deal of time crafting the voice and, according to Telegraph, he mailed a recording of his interpretation to Spielberg marked with a skull and crossbones.
Day-Lewis is joined by other strong actors in the film. Veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones plays hard-nosed Republican Thaddeus Stevens, the driving force of Lincoln’s party throughout the House. An abolitionist with remarkable wit, Stevens commands the floor with his booming voice and is a key component to the amendment’s passage.
Multi-Grammy winning composer John Williams scores the film with his usual brilliance. Viewers will find the music of “Lincoln” to be intertwined seamlessly with the script, queuing at just the right time to augment Lincoln’s words.
“Lincoln” is successful in shedding light on the old game of politics in a refreshing tone. Political discourse appears entertaining instead of dry and dull.
In doing so, it introduces a characteristic of Lincoln unknown to many: his use of personal anecdotes. When under the pressure of immense stress, Lincoln’s wisdom is his greatest support. He calmly calls upon a vast knowledge of allegories that effectively sway his cabinet and political opponents.
“Lincoln” will likely go down as one of Spielberg’s greatest historical productions, right next to films such as “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).