Lincoln (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2012) – As the American Civil War draws towards an end, American president Abraham Lincoln races against time to garner votes for the historical amendment that will emancipate all slaves.
Daniel Day-Lewis’ adept embodiment of Abraham Lincoln befits the important retelling of his work toward the landmark, revolutionary Amendment.
Palpable tension refuses to abate in the courtroom. Polarised parties engage in a heated debate on the exigent 13th Amendment. While Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) speaks with refulgent passion against the inhumane acts of slavery, Fernando Wood (Lee Pace) retorts with shameful expediency and detestable intensity. Some are bowled over. Others start to baulk under pressure with each provocative exchange.
Steven Spielberg’s latest brings one of the most important chapters of history to vivid life with help from first-rate cast performances all around. It is of course, Daniel Day Lewis’s Lincoln who ultimately steals the show. His immaculate lead earns him a well-deserved place in Academy history – for receiving his third Best Actor golden statue.
Circling his almost poetic, always convicted voice is a commanding presence, befitting one of the most beloved American presidents. As trouble piles against his favour, his equanimity quavers but never breaks. Protective of her only son having lost another, Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln stands alongside with equally heartfelt excellence.
A dialogue-driven screenplay takes on a rather gradual pace. The dominant speeches hence tend to drag for less patient viewers. Its drawn-out ending regrettably misses out on a potentially more emotional finale. Even so, Munich writer Tony Kushner proves an expert in levelling history with drama. Be it Lincoln telling stories or leading his Cabinet, every line captivates the audience with much thoughtful depth.
Like fellow Best Picture nominee (and eventual winner) Argo, history buffs will note some discrepancies with actual facts. Granted the film-makers did take liberties to embellish parts of history, Lincoln paints a vivid and emotive picture of the very real social disparity back then.
The story of slavery’s abolition is unquestionably an important leaf out of the history books. Underneath the patriotic overtones is the inspirational societal progress, awakening from dated and unjustified values. Therein lies a reminder to consider modern society’s unresolved debates about the social inequality that persists today in other manifestations.