Years in the making, Steven Spielberg's epic biopic of our 16th president, Lincoln is an interesting portrait of a very confident and easygoing man in the midst of a tumultuous time. Set on the backdrop of the last months of the Civil War (and, subsequently, Lincoln's life), Lincoln takes a quiet approach to telling the story of the passing of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. While the subject was clearly a controversial one for the time, the movie seemed overly preachy about the topic that, in my opinion, isn't necessarily the most riveting of topics. I would have rather seen more of his life, who/what made him the person he was, what instigated the character he possessed. We do get the chance to see some of his personal life in his dealings with his wife (played superbly by Oscar-winner Sally Field) and his son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who seems to be building quite the resume this year).
The biggest spectacle in the entire film isn't necessarily in Spielberg's direction or John Williams' score, but in Daniel Day-Lewis' award-worthy turn as Lincoln. Day-Lewis' ability to sink into a role is on clear display here as he completely delves into the role of Lincoln, from his voice to his stagger as the tall president walks glumly down the hall. While we don't necessarily have video evidence of Lincoln's maneuvers, the picture we get with this movie seems to fit perfectly into the American psyche and into the legend that is the "greatest" president we've had.
While a movie of this caliber, with this type of prestige invested into it (Spielberg, Williams, Day-Lewis, Field, Tommy Lee Jones) and with this subject matter, is a given for awards nominations and wins, I'm not too sure it's necessarily completely deserving. Spielberg has made a fine movie, but I feel he didn't take every opportunity he could have. Where Schindler's List and Munich showcased Spielberg's knack for directing minus the special effects and aliens, Lincoln felt very run-of-the-mill. Tony Kushner's script was well-written, especially in turning the debates and speeches in the House of Representatives into exciting fodder, but there were moments where the heartstrings that were meant to be pulled and the accolades that were to be given came across more as cheesy than as incredible. I know there are a lot of discussions on race and racial equality in our country today, as we've re-elected Obama for a second term, but instead of offering anything new (no one alive today has any direct experience with slavery), I felt it's actually adding to the already-jading environment we're living in.
Politics and social commentary aside, Lincoln wasn't a waste of time. It's a well-made motion picture, despite its own missteps. There's no doubt in my mind that it will show up at awards time with multiple nominations. And, if you're looking for a good, thought-inducing picture, this is the movie for you.