You will never so intimately witness the endurance of the righteous men who sought the abolishment of slavery and the events that stood between its deliverance as in Lincoln. Spielberg’s Lincoln is not only an intricate political story of those events, but a moving and often disturbing portrayal of the men who contributed their lives to end the most ruthless war in American history.
The opening scene, the battle of Jenkins Ferry, is nothing but callous butchery. As the film’s only brief battle scene, it is enough to authenticate this era of human suffering. To demand any more scenes of bloodshed from this film would take emphasis away from the true intentions of the plot, which is to portray the political struggle of indoctrinating the 13th amendment.
War, family, politics, and how they are all conjoined within Lincoln’s story gives this film a number of different dimensions. Captured as a wise, caring, compromising, but above all a dedicated man, Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as the iconic leader is certainly a believable one. It is a romanticism, but a merited one with historical accuracy. As Lincoln talks with representatives, soldiers, commoners and family, his character only grows more profound and inspirational. Though he is centred as an icon, Lincoln’s anecdotal humour manages to ground his magnitude, and is primarily the only humour to be sought in this dramatic picture.
You will not need a comprehensive understanding of politics to enjoy Lincoln, though political jargon can become overbearing. Scenes set within the House of Representatives are enthralling and are among the most moving throughout the entire film. Spearheaded by Lee Pace as Fernando Wood, a charismatic anti-abolitionist, and Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Thaddeus Stevens, a sharp tonged and radical republican, you’ll witness a palpable tension and chemistry between the two. As they discuss the true meaning of the first amendment, that ‘all men are created equal’ Tommy Lee Jones’s performance and speech directed towards the opposition is a pinnacle moment in the film.
A whole nation waits as the telegraph clicks, communicating casted votes as they’re cast to determine whether millions shall be freed or remain in brutal oppression. Although the outcome is known, the tension is real, and you’ll share the relief of an entire continent upon hearing the 13th amendment’s final placement in the U.S constitution. And at this moment as a viewer you’ll catch a glimpse of what it meant to be free. But as a human being you might just feel its impact shudder through your entire family history, moral conscience, and your life today.
- Words by Guy Hirst