The biggest night in movies is 25 days away, and one of the most nominated films this year is Steven Spielberg’s epic historical drama, “Lincoln.” If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well worth the trip to your local theater.
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (among other things), “Lincoln” is 2 hours and 30 minutes of cinematic gold. It’s a lengthy film, but with Tony Kushner’s brilliant screenplay and Daniel Day-Lewis’ unbelievable transformation (you really have to see it to believe it) into the 16th President of the United States, you will enjoy every last minute.
Based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 historical biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Spielberg’s film chronicles the last four months of Lincoln’s life, and his fight to get the 13th Amendment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in January of 1865. A fight that was made all the more difficult when it was realized that the abolition of slavery was no longer needed to end the Civil War. The majority of people surrounding Lincoln, including his closest friends and colleagues, wanted to proceed with peace talks with the Southern states and end the war without freeing slaves.
For anyone the least bit interested in American history, or interested in historical films in general, this movie is fascinating. Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy do a phenomenal job of transporting the audience back to the American 19th century political arena. “Lincoln” has been a passion project over 10 years in the making for Spielberg, whose film studio, Dreamworks, bought the movie rights to Goodwin’s book back in 2001.
Much like “Silver Linings Playbook,” another Oscar-nominated film this year, it’s the performances that really make “Lincoln” stand out. Daniel Day-Lewis took a whole year to prepare for his role as Abraham Lincoln, and his dedication pays off. Nominated for Best Actor, Day-Lewis completely disappears into his character, and his resemblance to the 16th President is uncanny. His Lincoln is full of wit and quiet determination, but also a lot of love. A deep affection for his sons, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and young Tad (Gulliver McGrath), is beautifully portrayed throughout the film.
Sally Field, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, is amazing as the emotionally unpredictable Mary Todd Lincoln, a difficult role. “Molly,” as her husband calls her, still grieves heavily for the son they lost to typhoid fever, and Lincoln is frequently swept up in her emotional whirlwinds, with heartbreaking results.
Tommy Lee Jones, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, is phenomenal as Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican and passionate abolitionist who championed the end of slavery his entire life, and who plays a key role in getting the 13th Amendment passed. Jones’ performance is entertaining and inspiring, swinging always between humor and heartfelt determination.
Also notably great is David Strathairn as William H. Seward, the Secretary of State, and close friend and confidant to Lincoln. This film has a huge roster of great actors, including James Spader and John Hawkes, who are both an entertaining surprise when they appear on screen.
While the performances really are outstanding, it is Tony Kushner’s screenplay that is the heart of “Lincoln,” and it’s his dialogue that makes the film so entertaining to watch. You wouldn’t think watching 19th century politicians argue and insult one another would be so hilarious, but it really is a funny film throughout. The script is perfection, as heartbreaking and emotional as it is witty and full of humor.
“Lincoln” rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“Lincoln” Rated PG-13 Directed by Steven Spielberg Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, Gloria Reuben, Jared Harris
“Lincoln” can currently be seen at these local Portland theaters:
Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10 – downtown Portland
Century 16 Cedar Hills – west side
Century 16 Eastport Plaza- east side
The Oscars will air live on Sunday, February 24th at 7 p.m. on ABC.