Saturday, February 16, 2013

On Martin Luther King Day, I finally was able to go to a showing of Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln" (2012) at our local theater. I had wanted to see it ever since it had been released, but somehow just was unable to find the time, especially around the holidays.
   It was worth the wait. I had read several reviews of the film, but none of them spoiled the magnificence and richness of the experience for me. It was beautifully filmed, using almost entirely Richmond and Petersburg locations, which added a lot of interest for me personally, as I live in the area. It was interesting to watch and realize that a particular scene was filmed at the Virginia Governor's Mansion or in the Capitol Building. For example, Thomas Sully's romanticized Victorian portrait of Pocahontas stood out in one scene, cluing me in to the room in the Capitol being used. Spielberg made great use of local people and buildings and took special care for the most part that the surroundings were accurate for Civil War period Washington.
   Although minor historical inaccuracies do exist throughout the film--Mary Todd Lincoln never sat in the House to see the vote taken on the 13th Amendment; Lincoln did not die in the position the film showed at all but was laid diagonally across the too short bed; Connecticut did not have a split vote on the Amendment; and the House would not have been as full as it looked in the movie, as those representatives of Congress from the Southern states were absent due to the war, etc.--I readily agree that probably few of these things were likely noticed by most people nor did they detract from my enjoyment of the film. It's not a documentary, but entertainment based on history.
   Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones were excellently cast in their roles and entirely believable in their portrayals. Powerful performances by each really fired the picture--I agree with one comment I saw that it was almost as if Day-Lewis were channeling Lincoln--and supporting actors like James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, and Gloria Reuben added much depth to the storytelling. Spielberg does a wonderful job of filming Tony Kushner's literate script, and they both made good use of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, as source material. Each character was carefully and thoughtfully made human, shown with their flaws and emotions, their strengths and their weaknesses, their passions, and set against the terrible times of the Civil War. I was totally drawn into Lincoln's efforts at getting the amendment passed before the war's end, and his reasons for this were certainly made clear in the film. The production greatly added to my understanding of all the political maneuverings and manipulations, deals, and back room bargaining that went on to make things happen. I'm glad that I took the opportunity to see the film, it was totally worthwhile and satisfying to me as a movie goer and history buff. I would encourage anyone to make the effort to see this film for its outstanding performances and strong story about a very crucial episode in our nation's history.

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