I’m going to come clean right now: until I saw Lincoln, I had never seen a Daniel Day-Lewis film before. He was a man I was only aware of by reputation, as someone who goes to great lengths to prepare for his roles and that the results are often amazing. And while it certainly doesn’t make my opinion stand out among the other critics, but based upon this film the reputation is deserved.
Now Showing this week is Best Picture nominated Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg. Lincoln revolves around the debate and vote to pass the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution in January of 1865. President Abraham Lincoln wished to emancipate the African American slaves, and to do so he needed to gain majority support from Congress to add a thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. But with a Union (Northern Anti-Slave states) victory over the Confederate (Southern Slave owning states) all but assured in the coming months, Lincoln must pass this amendment before the war ends because if it does then there is less of a precedent to give equal rights to the slaves.
I must say, for a film that (in a nutshell) is about old men arguing politics, Lincoln made some fascinating viewing. I have a limited knowledge of Civil War history, so a lot of the information presented in the film was new to me, and in that regard I found it to be very educational. I know that some events were altered to heighten the drama (such as specifically who voted for what when the time came), but the big stuff like the views of the big parties etc. was a huge eye opener. For one, the party who was fighting to emancipate the slaves was the Republican party. No that’s not a typo, it was the Republican party fighting for the legal equality of African American people. I know, I couldn’t believe it either!
Performance wise, the film was top notch. We all know that Daniel Day-Lewis would be amazing, and his Honest Abe was captivating, especially in his scenes with Mrs. Lincoln (Sally Field). Their scenes together were excellent, with the two of them showing two very different approaches to grief after losing one of their sons prior to the film’s beginning. And I must say, Day-Lewis can perform the hell out of a monologue, always feeling genuine and never overly rhythmic. In fact that would be the word I would use to describe Day-Lewis’ Lincoln: genuine. His Lincoln felt more like a person than your usual historical figure in a film. What can I say, Daniel Day-Lewis may be a crazy person when it comes to prep, but it works for him.
The other cast members were certainly brilliant, some favourites of mine being Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader. Jones’ portrayal of Republican senator Thaddeus Stevens was a joy to watch. He was witty, passionate and tragic in that his desire for racial equality was being twisted into a political circus. I would not be sad to see him win Best Supporting Actor later today! James Spader, on the other hand, had the role of the disgustingly devious W.N. Bilbo, a man hired by Lincoln to help convince others to support the vote. His complete lack of tact and personal hygiene made for a very interesting character, not one you’d likely see in the same room as a President today!
Much like what I said in my post about Flight, my favourite aspect of Lincoln was what the film was saying to the audience; or at least what I was interpreting from it. When I studied acting at university, one thing we were taught when approaching a script was to understand the three “worlds” of the script; those “worlds” being the world of the script itself (the one the narrative takes place in), the world of writer (the time in which it was written) and lastly the world today. Now the last world is asking you to think about why this story is being told now; why is it still relevant? And I felt Lincoln presented an answer to that question very strongly, for to me the film speaks very much about the current political situation regarding marriage equality and gun control in the US. I know everyone is connecting everything they can get their hands on to these issues, but seriously, hear me out! Lincoln presents to us a moment in history when the Republican party stood up for the equality of a cultural minority, going against a social norm that had been held for centuries, and were willing to accept that perhaps the Constitution isn’t perfect and that it needs amending to move with the times. Lincoln is reminding us of this because this is a moment that needs to happen again, and to me it was a powerful message that I was thinking about long after the credits rolled.
Now I know this film isn’t really anyone’s first choice to take home the Oscars today given it seems to be the obvious choice given the Oscars’ track record. And to be honest, Lincoln isn’t my ideal choice to win either (come on Argo!!!!!!), but I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if it did.
Happy Oscars Day everyone!
See you next time.