Summary: Steven’s Lincoln is an Important Film Made and Played With Such Seriousness You Feel Proud To Be A Part Of The Experience
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ is so dignified and composed in depicting the endeavor of the Sixteenth President of United States that you feel proud to witness the victory achieved by its characters. It is a movie which makes you want to get up on your feet at the end and stand in silence for two minutes as a mark of tribute to Mr. President. Steven Spielberg makes his film keeping in mind that it isn’t snazzy camera editing and unusual angles that will supply the strength that this film requires, but the careful and thorough understanding and execution of its central themes with the help of a perfect cast. Spielberg had an array of options to alter the cinematography of his film to make it more fast-paced and create tension using swifter camera movements, but he does not use innovative techniques because he knows that it wouldn’t work here. He wants us to listen closely to every spoken and unspoken word and feel the crucial significance of the subject matter.
There are heavy dialogues involving constitutional amendments, slavery, Euclid’s principle etc and we can choose to skip all this and concentrate on the popcorn in our hands or pay attention, and when we do the latter we rejoice along with the film’s characters when victory is attained. There was a ‘groupie’ of youngsters who left the hall when Mr. Lincoln was gravely pondering about some matter in the first half, and I was relieved those idiots left because they were obviously little interested in the subject and would certainly not have found a reason to celebrate later. I, on the other hand missed about fifteen minutes in the beginning and yet found myself extremely engrossed by every word of dialogue spoken by brilliant actors in Lincoln, and later got to share their joy and victory as if it was I who had attained emancipation.
The groupie that left the hall had possibly bunked their college lecture or got to know that it was Spielberg’s film or had glanced at the online ratings for Lincoln. I do not think they truly what the subject matter was and just came in thinking that they were going to see Lincoln jumping off a building evading knife-wielding Democrats. Lincoln’s actual concern is the pursuit to find a solution to end the Civil war and pass the 13th amendment for abolishment of slavery in the Constitution. President Abraham Lincoln is the central instrument in bringing an end to both the crisis and the unjust legislation, but what we realize here is that it isn’t an aggressive, outspoken and impractical Lincoln who’s leading the party but an extremely sensible, persuasive, down-to-earth and astute (sometimes crafty too) Lincoln who’s responsible for orchestrating the historical events.
He is very much like the director of a play, staying behind-the-scenes to let his party do the battle for him in the parliament while formulating the most carefully planned strategy to achieve enough support for success. Not once do we see him personally countering the Democrats but hear his voice through the voices of his supporters, which includes radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens who brings in the blunt and fiery force that Lincoln outwardly lacks. The movie hardly takes us to the scene of the actual war (we only get to see the gory aftermath), instead choosing to concentrate on the political battlefield between Democrats and Republicans in finding a solution to the war. We also get glimpses from Lincoln’s personal life: his relationship with his strong-willed yet intensely caring wife Mary and some touching moments involving Lincoln and his youngest son Tad. And yes there is Lincoln’s elder son Robert but the character is very forgettable because of Josh Gordon Levitt’s underdeveloped interpretation of him.
In one of the scenes involving Lincoln and Robert, Lincoln remarks that he does not believe in people who prophesize too much; yet when the voting for the thirteenth amendment ends, we see Lincoln celebrating his victory embracing Tad in his office. This moment very subtly shows that Lincoln himself has predicted how his son’s future shall be (one with relatively less inequality). This is just one of the many beautiful moments that brilliantly justify the themes of equality, freedom, courage, perseverance, heroism and compassion. Nothing (at least to me who is more open-minded to optimistic resolutions) to me sounded preachy or maudlin partly because Tony Kushner pens the script so well, allowing us to have moments of great fun with Thaddeus’ irresistible zingers and the entire voting session with its twists and turns.
And more importantly it is the cast that makes us root for the movie’s characters. Just listening to Daniel Day Lewis’ calm yet extremely effective vocal delivery made me accept him as the President of the United States. Lewis is also supported by the camera work which circles around him and his audience (to whom he is directing something or just telling a story –a profound story) till it slowly pans and zooms into his face and we are all ears to him. The most astonishing part was how Lewis showed Lincoln’s gradual aging through a slight crackle in his voice and an avuncular sparkle in his eyes that many older people, especially grandfathers have. While Sally supports Lewis effortlessly in her scenes, it is Tommy Lee Jones who nails Thaddeus so well that we are just as emotionally involved with his character as we are with Lewis’.
Comedienne Joan Rivers said on her show she ‘found Lincoln so boring, although the movie had everything’; well, I think Rivers envied Thaddeus’ character because he gave her still competition in repartee. I believe an important subject or person should be treated with highest seriousness and regard, and Spielberg does exactly that. ‘If you want fluff, go watch a Katherine Heigl movie!’… I know I’ve begun sounding like Thaddeus Stevens now, but why I shouldn’t when I believe in Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’.
- Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln Home Release Coming This May (thepeoplesmovies.com)
- Film Review: Lincoln (alexdsimmonds.wordpress.com)
- Want to remake an American movie with Indian director: Steven Spielberg (movies.ndtv.com)