Monday, November 19, 2012

Movie Review: "Lincoln"

Upon seeing director Steven Spielberg's latest, Lincoln, I would not at all be surprised to see both Spielberg and Abraham Lincoln-portayer Daniel Day-Lewis win their third Oscars, and deservedly so.   Lincoln is a master class in acting, writing, and directing, as the cast and crew tell the story of the last few months of Abraham Lincoln's life and his battle to get slavery abolished by passing the 13th amendment.

All of the actors, from Sally Field as the tortured Mary Todd Lincoln to Tommy Lee Jones as the abolitionist Thadeus Stevens,  relish in three-dimensional roles scripted with historical authenticity by screenwriter Tony Kushner, but it's Day-Lewis that steals the show.  He disappears in the role, due in a large part to the brilliant make-up work which requires a genuine second glance to distinguish him from the real Abraham Lincoln in certain shots, in particular profiles.  Where Day-Lewis excels though, is how he controls the performance.  He rarely chews scenery, his high, reedy voice just seems perfectly natural to the Lincoln that he is presenting, with the real depth not always coming in his words, but in his soulful eyes.  As a matter of fact, I would say that control is the best way to describe everyone's work in this film.

No performance outshines the other in a scene, there is never too much attention drawn to the cinematography, as everything all gels together nicely to feel organic to the story.  What's most surprising, Spielberg and composer John Williams show genuine restraint in the sparseness of the music, such as letting it be entirely ambient noise when the 13th amendment is passed.  However, this isn't the entire film, with Spielberg and company knowing when to give a little visual or aural flourish to make their point.  While Spielberg often sits back in dialogue scenes to let the actors do their work, he always knows the right moment to push the camera in or pull it out to immerse you in their words, and the scene where the House is voting on the amendment, is as finely crafted a visual sequence he has ever done in his career.   

Lincoln is a cinematic marvel, it shows the humanity of a man that we often put up on a pedestal, and even when we see him in all of his flaws, we are still drawn to him because he was just such a great man.  It's such a loving portrait, that when you see Lincoln surrounded by his cabinet and his family, pronounced dead, you are overwhelmed by emotion to see a man that you have grown to love, never to open his soulful eyes again.  However, as Spielberg illustrates in the final scene, with the slow dissolve from a burning candle to Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln will continue to burn on to inspire countless generations to come.  If you want to try and make comparisons to the modern day political climate with this film, you're entirely in your right, but to me, this film is an inspiration, a firm reminder about the good of humanity and the leadership of a great man that should never be forgotten.

I give Lincoln an A+!

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