Daniel Day-Lewis does an amazing job portraying our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. He conveys the humanity and intelligence, along with the awkwardness and sorrow. Lincoln was perhaps singularly suited to deal with the issues of slavery and union, with bringing our nation out of a time of bondage, and into an era of freedom.
The film wasn’t what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I purposefully ignored reviews and articles about it, not wanting to have anything ruined for me. I think I expected it to handle more of his presidency. Instead, the film covers the period between his re-election and his assassination, a time in which he determined the time was right to force the issue of abolishing slavery once and for all. The film follows his reasoning, the struggles in Congress (which many today might appreciate), the political maneuvering to get the votes needed. It’s a tricky plot, and one that might have become bogged down in minutia, translating into boredom. They didn’t.
I felt like I should have capital “L” loved the movie, and I didn’t. I liked it a lot, maybe even little “l” loved it, but it felt like there was perhaps something missing. I was touched by the scenes of Lincoln interacting with the soldiers, with the dignity that they had in their conversations, and by the scene of him riding his horse through the aftermath of a gory battle. The scenes of battle themselves were horrific, in true Spielberg fashion, though not as overblown as he can sometimes get.
What I enjoyed most were the performances. Day-Lewis was amazing, as always, and here especially so. David Straitharn as Seward, and Tommy Lee Jones as Stephens, more than held their own. I’m not sure that Sally Field was the best person to play Mary Todd Lincoln…Lincoln was about Lewis’ age when he died, but Mrs. Lincoln was 10 years younger than her husband, while Sally Field is 10 years older than Lewis. So we have a 65 year old woman playing a 46 year old woman. I’m not a Lincoln scholar, so I don’t know much about Mrs. Lincoln, other than both she and her husband suffered from depression; that she was from a Southern slave holding family, and that she felt the death of her son keenly. Sally Field did a wonderful job of conveying that pain, and that she was unwilling to go through it again. I’m not sure there was more in the role for her than that, and perhaps there should have been.
Overall, I’d highly recommend Lincoln. I just really wanted to LOVE it, and I didn’t.