Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Lincoln" (2012) - Movie Review

Steven Spielberg who can swing from one end of spectrum of saturated sappiness to the other end of brutal reality, provides an ultimate balance in “Lincoln”. As much as this is a grand project on his end to lay out the iconic man from the history in precise nature of cross section into his personal and political arena, it is once again Daniel Day-Lewis giving a performance that is nothing but pure transformation into a figure that no one has ever seen and are only laid out through books. Right from the moment Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln begins his speech, it took less than a minute for me to completely forget that it is an actor portraying a role into seeing the historical figure alive and delivering his tone and smiling authority. That is a skill I cannot even fathom of understanding.

With the strongest foundation as Daniel Day-Lewis leveraging this project, it is still a challenging exercise in laying out the man in the most crucial juncture of the history. Spielberg does not go for the biography rather goes for the most critical nature for Lincoln himself challenged politically and personally. The film chronicles the events that became the fulcrum for the 13th amendment abolishing slavery being passed in United States House of Representatives. 

The film’s chronicle of events in the eventual passing of this law tells the sweats that needs to be laid down on speeches openly and in clandestine to get things done and passed long. Here is the leader who has been praised and exemplified for his character in the American history and to him being treated for what the time dictated him to be is only a prime example of how much the times have changed but the game of politics exists afresh and alive. The greatest of our leaders had to always stand in the juncture of not two roads but multiple roads and select one, divert and divulge for the road to success. 

Lincoln is tired but his wiseness and mild wise cracks. He is leading a war that is taking the whole nation onto its knees and in the midst of it he knows the criticality of passing this law. His adamance in executing this at the worst juncture of civil war scares and annoys his office but he plans for the worst which is that if he loses the war, the Emancipation Proclamation would simply be discarded and even if someone in future takes upon as him to do the right thing, the days that leads upto it would have only assimilated more innocent souls to humiliation, pain and death. All this are on the face of a man struggling to wonder the nature of the field he is playing in. Or he knows it and is simply fed up in fighting it the way he wanted to. He goes all in.

“Lincoln” as any film would relies on its supporting actors. Granted that Lewis alone can carry the weight but that might have become cumbersome and mainly lose the focus on the actual screenplay. David Strathairn as Secretary of State William H. Seward establishes how a friendship and associate has to co-exist that hurts and compliments each of those roles. Then there is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens who lends a strong supporting hand to Lewis’ Lincoln to work out the logistics in passing the bill. Tommy Lee Jones has been a serious man in his roles and here he is brought upon for the right character that delivers the power and nobility the role beckons him to.

There are several other players that might require a paragraph to themselves but the key is that each of those adds a layer to this amazing individual. While Spielberg has thoroughly disappointed in overflowing his sentiments in “The Terminal” and excruciating “The War Horse” but here he appears to reserve his sentiments just enough to provide a view that is entertaining, enjoyable and truly inspiring. His calculations in moving several coins at once and play with words to provide to escape through the loop holes of technicality expresses how being smart pays off for noble causes.

“Lincoln” thus becomes a Daniel Day-Lewis film but as Paul Thomas Anderson who utilized the man’s power to his presentation of his material, Spielberg absorbs the performance and weaves a historical film that plays a terrific political thriller and offers insights on the backgrounds of the influential times and the influential law. It is a difficult play to do those without breaking the tension. There are obvious reasons one would want to watch “Lincoln” but there are two other very strong reasons that requires to watch the art of film in the name of Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg. 

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