By Aakash Jain ‘14
“Lincoln” — Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
9 out of 10
Directed and produced by famed storyteller Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln” takes viewers back to a time when there were only 34 U.S. states, the average American could not afford to paint his house and civil war convulsed the nation.
Partly based on “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” a 2005 biography by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the film brilliantly weaves together a story of a formative moment of American history, the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery.
As the title of the movie suggests, it mainly focuses on the involvement of President Abraham Lincoln, played by Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis, in the passage of the amendment.
Day-Lewis effectively captures the wit and charm of Lincoln and yet still manages to portray him as the morally upright “Honest Abe” we all know and respect.
A fascinating subplot in the film centers on the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, played by Sally Field, who struggles to cope with the pressures of war and the recent death of a son.
Field conveys to viewers a wide range of emotions, as her character tries to manage her chaotic life.
Interestingly, in real life, Mary Todd Lincoln’s own son committed her to a private asylum in Illinois in 1875.
Another intriguing character in the film is Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones.
A “Radical Republican,” Stevens was the leader of the faction of Lincoln’s party that strongly supported abolition.
A surprising change of character for Stevens late in the film gives viewers an interesting moral dilemma to ponder.
Jones portrays Stevens just as the history books describe him, witty and sarcastic.
Overall, “Lincoln” captures something about the human condition that remains meaningful, even today.
The film is eloquently compelling, and, at times, witty and humorous.
Perhaps the only criterion “Lincoln” fails to meet in order to earn a “10” is hopelessly subjective.
In my eyes, the film has a dearth of the spectacular. It weaves together a gripping storyline, yet lacks a “wow factor” to place it among the upper echelon of cinema, alongside the likes of “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Cool Hand Luke.”
Nonetheless, the characters, though over a century old, exude a sense of timelessness and make viewers aware that the lessons learned in 1865 are still relevant today.
Add to that the fact that the film provides tremendous historical insight into one of the most important moments in American history, and “Lincoln” proves to be a must-see.