Wednesday, November 21, 2012
It's probably counter-productive to try to shoehorn Steven Spielberg's massive historical epic, Lincoln, into the realm of allegory. Yes, this tale of political maneuvering at the close of the American Civil War portrays a House literally divided against itself, one party trying to reconcile the conservative and "radical" elements within itself, two parties so ideologically diverse they can't engage in debate on the floor without hurling invective at each other, and a recently re-elected president struggling to balance his personal principles with his need to heal the nation.
But the beauty, and genius, of Spielberg's film is the way it defies analogy to any specific statesman, party, or era. Instead, it provides a cogent glimpse into the American political process itself, the very democracy that Americans of all persuasions believe they support, although few of us understand exactly how it works. In this respect, Spielberg's view of the contentious state of American politics, then as now, is as timeless as it is fascinating.
But what gives this film its touch of greatness is very specific, indeed. Abraham Lincoln, was no ordinary statesman, but a moral visionary who risked everything to end the institution of slavery. Extraordinary, too, is the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in the role. From his unruly, tufted hair and scruffy beard, to the hint of windswept prairie in his light-pitched voice, from his gentle, self-deprecating laughter, to the careworn curve of his shoulders, to the deliberate way he folds or unfolds his long limbs in sitting or standing, Day-Lewis inhabits the role with every fiber of his being.
This is a Lincoln savvy enough to wield great power, but who never loses the common touch, and Spielberg and company impress us with what a rare and laudable gift that is. When Day-Lewis collects his third Best Actor Oscar next February, he will SO have earned it. (Read more)