Steven Spielberg's new film, LINCOLN, stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the determined
President who brought and end to slavery in America. His performance is the best acting I've seen in a movie this year.
Great actors are said to "inhabit" their roles and that's exactly what Daniel Day-Lewis does as Lincoln.
The two time Academy Award winner may earn yet another Oscar for his portrayal of the 16th President of the United States.
He transforms the monumental figure in the Lincoln Memorial into a flesh-and-blood human being.
Lincoln: "Even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law, it is a self evident truth that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other." The self-educated Abraham Lincoln is quoting the Greek mathematician Euclid to make his point that since white people are human beings and black people are human beings, it's a self evident truth that they are equal to each other.
And this movie focuses on his efforts, in the last four months of his life, to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery. There was a strong possibility that the Civil War (in which 618,000 died) could be ended more quickly if Lincoln didn't insist on that amendment, but he was determined.
Secretary of State Seward (played by Davis Strathairn): "Why tarnish your invaluable luster with a battle in the House. It's a rat's nest in there. it's the same gang of talentless hicks and hacks who rejected the Amendment 10 months ago. We'll lose."
Lincoln: "I like our chances now."
Based on a biography of Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, this movie adds a lot to the standard knowledge about Mr. Lincoln. We're shown, for example, that he was a savvy politician who knew how to maneuver other politicians to get the results he wanted. He hired the equivalent of lobbyists; he argued his case to lame duck Congressmen; and he twisted the arms of representatives of his own party.
And all the while he was dealing with pressure from his overwrought wife played wonderfully by Sally Field.
Mary Todd Lincoln (Field): "I believe you when you insist that amending the Constitution and abolishing slavery will end this war. And since you are sending my son into the war, woe unto you if you fail to past the amendment."
The entire cast is superb. Tommy Lee Jones gives one of his best performances as the irascible Thaddeus Stevens, a radical ally of Lincoln.
Stevens (in the House of Representatives): "How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands, stinking, the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior."
Spielberg does an amazing job of recreating 19th century Washington. But you should also know that this is a very talky movie that lasts for two and a half hours. (The screenplay is by playwright Tony Kushner, who won a Pulitzer Prize for writing "Angels in America.")
While LINCOLN humanizes the 16th President, it also makes clear why he is so admired. Lincoln not only kept the country together in spite of the worst crisis it's ever faced, but he ended the horror of slavery.
Lincoln: "This (Amendment 13) settles the fate for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage but of unborn millions to come."