Tue, Nov
20
2012

LINCOLN

Screenplay by Tony Kushner

Based, in part, on TEAM OF RIVALS - THE POLITICAL GENIUS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Directed by Steven Spielberg

“Shall we stop this bleeding?”

There is only one thing keeping Lincoln from supreme greatness: the assassination.

Everyone knew it would be in the movie. Everyone was expecting it. Everyone was hoping — knowing — it would be the ultimate tear-jerking finale.

Unfortunately, they were wrong. The assassination takes place off-screen, the entire event lasts five minutes, and it’s sandwiched between two powerful scenes that should have concluded the film on their own merits, back-to-back.

lincoln-movie-poster.jpg

In short, the assassination wasn’t remotely necessary to the the film…not for one moment. It detracts from the power of Lincoln, which acts as the ultimate series of snapshots — glimpses of incredible people in an incredible time…and my god, does it truly feature some incredible, outstanding people.

I’m referring to the actors who embody the historical characters that dominate the screen. Has there ever been, in recent years, such an assembly of greatness on one screen? I’m not sure where to begin…

  • There were those who believed Sally Field to be the wrong choice for Mary Todd — even Spielberg himself needed convincing. It was a fruitless fear, for she sears the screen itself…whether holding back the grief over a dead son, or showing off her mastery of etiquette & political maneuvering…

  • I had no idea James Spader was in the film until I watched him waltz into view as W.N. Bilbo, slightly drunk. He brings to the proceedings an incisive comedic flair worthy of King Lear’s jester. A jovial, jolly, earthy creature of bacchanalian habits, unafraid in the face of events and circumstances that would chill the blood of the calmest individual…

  • Tommy Lee Jones continues to surprise. In his hands, Thaddeus Stevens is an sumptuous, charismatic character of passion & forthright personality…forced to learn the art of compromise at the exact moment when it becomes the key to victory. He makes — body & soul — history. Jones should make some history of his own, for if he doesn’t win the Academy Award for best supporting actor, then I simply give up on Hollywood…for the umpteenth time…

  • Finally, there is Daniel Day Lewis…that is, if you can find him. He doesn’t exist. I have never seen such an astonishing disappearing act: one actor subsumed into the role of America’s greatest President — the voice, the walk, the stoop, the genial gentility, the harnessed emotions held back with steel will…words simply fail to provide any adequate description. I’ll simply state that, between the scene with his oldest son Robbie, and the scene where he and his wife finally confront the overwhelming grief over their recently deceased son Willie, something extraordinary occurs on the screen. Something that achieves a level of artistry for film that is on par with Michaelangelo’s Pieta…and just as achingly sad…

Shame about the assassination scene.

Lincoln is a focused, concise, tightly made film about a single moment of transformative, revolutionary power. It’s a tightly made film about one gentle man called upon to arbitrate over this bloodthirsty moment in history, and the legacy he left behind. It will make you cry at least twice. It will make your heart want to burst from your chest. It will leave you beaming, steaming, and staring in gap-mouthed awe.

Shame about the assassination scene.

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