Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earl Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Black Sheldon, Joseph Cross, Jared Harris, and many more.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg Screenplay by: Tony Kushner Based partially on the book by: Doris Kearns Goodwin Original Music by: John Williams Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski
Premise: After four brutal years civil of war, the end might be near. Yet previously having been unable to pass the 13th Amendment, Lincoln must hurry and do all he can to get it passed before peace comes, or the measure will most likely be killed once the country is unified again. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: There are so many familiar and loved faces starring in this film it took my breath away. Daniel Day-Lewis gave an outstanding performance as Abraham Lincoln. Sally Field did a marvelous job of portraying the migraine riddled, possibly bi-polar, yet intelligent and intuitive Mary Todd Lincoln. James Spader totally surprised me as the comedic relief, a task he performed excellently. There were no bad performances here.
2) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: Lincoln is portrayed as a real person, good habits and bad. The story shows him in all environments, as president, as husband, as father, as human. He has his quirks and fallacies just like any other man, giving even more weight to the choices and steps he makes through this time.
Though the film only covers the last four months of Lincoln’s career, there are many inserted bits to recall previous matters and give a bigger historical picture. The carriage accident Mrs. Lincoln got hurt in, (which was believed to have been an assassination attempt on Lincoln, but who’d ended up not taking his usual ride), which aggravated and added several health issues for Mary Todd. The fact the White House had been in utter disrepair when handed over to the Lincolns (back then there was no budget for keeping the president’s residence – all the previous presidents had been well off and had been expected to pay for the upkeep from their own pockets). They even mention the fact Mary had been investigated due to the fact she was a Southern Bell as there were those believing she was handing information to the enemy.
One factual matter not mentioned (though since I didn’t see Seward in the death room, it looks to have been implied) were the two other assassinations planned to occur at the same time as Lincoln’s. Those two, at least, did not entirely succeed.
The film moves well and quickly. Cute, poignant, and comedic moments are sprinkled throughout. Watching the machinations of the Democratic and Republican parties was absolutely fascinating. All sides and reasons were well represented and done in an impartial manner, which gave the film real depth.
3) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Gorgeous reconstruction of locals and superb attention to detail. The scene of current combat at the beginning was as amazing as it was brutal. Towards the end, the field of the dead was horrifying in its scope.
4) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: The costumes were fantastic. You could almost identify which state they represented by their clothing. One super subtle, yet very telling, clothing items were the shawls and inside coats Lincoln and Seward wore, hinting at heating issues and cost cutting at the White House.
Conclusion: A fabulous film well worth taking the time to see. A lot of awards deserve to be won by this one.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Totally Worth Full Price of Admission.)
If you find the film as fascinating as I did, I would very much recommend Barbara Hambly’s The Emancipator’s Wife – It is a fictional account of Mary Todd’s life, but it’s from a top-notch historical researcher, so she kept it as factual as possible. The books skirts past most of the story of Lincoln himself and focuses on Mary Todd and the culture the couple grew up in and the troubles that came along with being the wife of a non-wealthy president. Very enlightening and fantastically written.