On to the next best picture nominee for 2012 - Lincoln. Taken in part from a recent book by legendary historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, in some sense this is a scholarly film. It focuses on the last months of the war and a little portrayed incident in the life of our 16th president - the fight to pass the Emancipation Amendment to be adopted into the Constitution. Thankfully, it spares the audience the trauma of witnessing the assassination, for which I was grateful.
Spielberg has long shown us that he is a master at making movies. We are reminded again by the quality of this film.
As the Democrats and Republicans (yes, they were both involved back then, too) bicker and fight over whether to free the slaves, we are shown a side of Lincoln that isn't often discussed. He was a politician and a good one.
The film is impressive in the quality of the sets, the costumes, the location shoots particularly the battle scenes, and the superb cast in even the most minor roles.
But the unquestioned star of this production is Daniel Day-Lewis. He IS Lincoln, portraying a gangly, country-bred man with enough native intelligence to learn the law by reading law books under the tutelage of a small town lawyer.
His Lincoln is a fully realized human being, worn down by five years of war, and the death of two of his sons. His marriage is not happy, his domestic life has been cast aside by the responsibilities he carries for the nation. He rarely sleeps much and is worn down by the heavy burden of a war-time president. Yet, he frequently tells stories, anecdotes to relieve the tension of the situation and make his point. David Strathairn as dour Secretary of State Seward, at one point rushes out of the room proclaiming "I can't take another of his stories!"
If you've read any biographies of Lincoln, you will recognize Day-Lewis' portrayal. His cultured English voice becomes a graveled tone with unmistakable overtones of Lincoln's rural roots.
Also exceptional in the cast are Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln, David Strathairn - mentioned previously, and Tommy Lee Jones in an Academy Award nominated performance as an abolitionist supporting the amendment to abolish slavery in the United States for all time. You will recognize other actors in the cast, although it make take you a while under all the facial hair typical of the time. I saw Tim Blake Nelson whom I loved in "O' Brother, Were Art Thou" especially his rendition of "He's in the jailhouse now." He plays a member of the House of Representatives who supports the amendment. Look for other familiar faces, you'll be surprised at the depth of the cast.
The mark of a good director is the finished product - the play or the film. Lincoln was directed by one of our best directors in the film industry. It is a seamless production, worthy of a viewing.
As with the previously reviewed film, "Les Miz", "Lincoln" shows a realistic version of life in the time portrayed in the film. It also shows us an exceptional man born to greatness who changed our nation forever and saved our country in one of its darkest hours.
Bravo, Mr. Spielberg and everyone who worked on the picture.
You will laugh and you might cry. I hope you are as impressed with the film as I was. Daniel Day-Lewis is a superb actor. This performance is one of his best.
Until next time, take care and enjoy our wonderful pop culture.