Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
Despite all constant efforts to try and give the most unbiased portrayal of historical events, there will always be the human desire to “remember” things as they suit our own personal beliefs. One such time period mired in the very definition of political spin ends up the featured idea behind today’s cinematic review.
However, despite much of the negativity that still surrounds America’s decent into a civil war and it’s attachment to slavery, the film actually does a decent job showing how an imperfect system like our government can actually be used to seek the greater good. Instead of warping the message to vilify one group for making something like freedom and equality more difficult than it should be, we are instead presented with a rather clear picture of how fear can cause harm if we let it control our intentions. “Lincoln” may end up being worthy of plenty of award chatter in the end, but it’s overall message of strength through our nation’s bleakest days makes it important enough to be seen if for nothing more than to cause us to focus on our role in what will be there for the next generation.
Set during January of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is like much of the nation, ready for the Civil War to be over, though his biggest concern is that his emancipation proclamation will become invalid once the conflict ends. In order for him to feel confident slavery will be abolished, he ups his efforts to see the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution approved by the US House of Representatives before any conflict resolution comes about.
Unfortunately the price of his ambitions is high from having to deal with the stress placed on his family like wife Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), to having to reach agreements with other politicians like radical abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and Francis Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), whose peace treaty suggestion might jeopardize the whole effort. Because the war is more of a secondary or third dog in the race, the movie does move at a more casual pace and relies more on the dealings of a witty political thriller to carry things through for the most part. In other words, don't look for it quite to be as exciting as most films based on this era, but still engaging and powerful through some of the year's best acting.
If anything, the movie is more than carried by the performance of Day-Lewis, who nails down the president through his mortality instead of god-like admiration. I also couldn't get enough of the barbs exchanged between Jones and Fields, who made for what little light hearted moments that could be included in such an epic and are just as award deserving at least on the supporting role front.
I really would not be surprised if this becomes something to discussed in a history class or even picked apart on the appropriate cable channels, certainly something that could be watched more than once to catch personal lessons missed. In the end, I'd recommend checking it out for most ages despite where it falls on your ranks of the year's best. In the end, "Lincoln" is deserving of a satisfactory verdict, three and three fourths out of five scores.