Last night I felt as if our sixteenth president leapt across the screen and landed at my feet.
[During the film’s production, the part of Abraham Lincoln was listed on the call sheet as being played by Abraham Lincoln, not Daniel Day-Lewis; source: IMDB].
What a tour de force. Spielberg has changed trajectory after an underwhelming turn recently and directed a marvelous picture, with a luminescent (if you can call the Lincoln character luminescent) performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, he who never fails to disappoint. The English thespian does such a tremendous job at playing the part that you forget that there’s an actor in front of you.
“Lincoln” will move you in ways unknown. Being able to peer so distinctly into one of our most momentous historical events is quite an experience. Thankfully, Spielberg focuses on a very specific part of Lincoln’s tenure, namely, the end: the issuance of the Emancipation Declaration, the end of the Civil War and his assassination. And what a tremendous loss that was for the country.
I’ve felt a quasi-permanent grudge toward Spielberg as the legendary filmmaker has a jones for suffusing his characters with schmaltziness. It’s indecent. The “Munich” filmmaker has made pulling at the heart’s strings a permanent feature of his director’s resume and I’m not sure why. The stories he chooses to tell are of exception, and he can make a damn good movie, maintaining things apace and steering the course capably: so why the need for artificial sweetener? And yet this is but one tick on a long list of pluses, like a score by John Williams and a solid-gold script by Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”). The initial script was drafted by John Logan (“Coriolanus”) and Paul Webb but Spielberg liked Kushner’s work on “Munich” and went with the latter’s version instead.
Add to this list of pluses a talented supporting cast composed of Sally Field, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and you get a film for the ages, one which pays tribute to a extraordinary historical figure.
TRIVIA – Once Daniel Day-Lewis decided on the voice that he would use to portray Lincoln, he sent an audiotape of it to Spielberg in a box with a skull & crossbones on it so no one but he would hear it first (source: IMDB).