Spielberg Gives Us Another History Lesson
LINCOLN (2012/IN THEATERS) It appears that Steven Spielberg is working to give us a new history lesson every few years. He started with Schindler’s List, educating us about the true-to-life effort of Oscar Schindler to save Jewish lives during WWII. After that, it was Munich (my favorite) that brought to life the shadowy efforts of Israel to avenge the deaths of their Olympic athletes after their murder in Germany. Last year, he showed us what WWI looked like in “War Horse” and stated in many interviews that he felt American audiences knew nothing about that war—it just wasn’t being taught. This year, he has chosen to focus on the last few months of Lincoln’s presidency, just after his re-election to a second term, and specifically to illustrate to us the efforts which were required to gain passage of the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery–a very important part of our history and one which resonates with the audience following this year’s tough re-election for our first black president. The screenplay for the movie was written by Tony Kushner and is based on a short section of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” the heralded biography of Mr. Lincoln. The film is long—2 and ½ hours—and is certainly “talky,” with a bit of the stage play about it. This makes sense, since Tony Kushner, while brilliant, is first and foremost a writer for the stage. Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln really carries the entire movie IMHO, although Sally Fields is strong as Mary Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones is wonderful also as Thaddeus Stevens, the famous abolitionist. Plenty of familiar and wonderful faces show up in the supporting cast, among them David Strathaim as William Seward, Jared Harris (of Mad Men fame) as Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Gordon Levitt as Abe and Mary’s son Robert Lincoln. And don’t forget about James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson and all the rest who help bring the story to life. Perfect timing for this film’s release and I definitely recommend seeing it. Stage-y or not, you will leave the theater with more appreciation than ever for Lincoln’s accomplishments—and of course, you’ll have seen Daniel Day Lewis’ sure to win Oscar performance.