|View single post by Michael F. Blake|
|Posted: Tue Nov 6th, 2012 05:22 am||
Michael F. Blake
|LINCOLN is, simply, an amazing film.
It is wholly unlike the typical Steven Spielberg films of recent vintage I have grown tired of. This is a film of amazing artistry, heart and depth.
Using Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, "A Team of Rivals" as its basis, the film centers on the last four months of Lincoln’s administration and his efforts to pass the 13th amendment to abolish slavery.
What we, the audience gets, is a literate screenplay (by Pulitzer Prize winner, playwright Tony Kushner) that, sadly, the silver screen has been lacking 9 times out of 10 for longer than I care to admit. The words jump from the screen in a wonderful flow of language, using period vernacular to help carry the feeling of us really being there instead of watching a movie. Great movies are like that. We get swept up in the story, become involved as if we are part of the process, not simply sitting as just a viewer.
Daniel Day-Lewis is beyond perfection as Lincoln. Period. I was not watching an actor playing the 16th President, but felt like I was truly watching Lincoln play Lincoln. His Lincoln is passionate, witty, and tremendously smart. He is everything we expected Lincoln to be and more. It is beyond a performance. Day-Lewis actually lives this role. You ache watching him, wishing we had this kind of leader now.
Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens has the greatest lines in the film and it nice to see Jones have a role where he relishes it. I have felt (with the exception of No Country For Old Men), he has been phoning in his performances for many years. Now he has a role that truly allows him to shine and he runs with it.
David Strathairn, an actor who I have long admired, comes to the forefront as Secretary of State Seward. His Seward is a man of practical understanding of politics who tries to make Lincoln understand the games of the political machine, yet comes to support his President. Strathairn is one of those wonderful actors who makes his roles stand out and hides behind the part, makeup and costume. He is truly one of the best American actors working today on stage and screen.
Sally Field plays Mary Lincoln. There is one dramatic scene with Day-Lewis that is the kind actors long to play, and she more than holds her own against her leading man. Her performance proves, once & for all, she is an extremely talented actress.
The rest of the cast is all top-notch, down to the smallest part ringing positive. This is one film that does not have one bad performance, including the numerous extras who bring themselves to life.
One interesting piece of trivia: When Lincoln is looking and playing with his pocket watch at his desk, listen to the ticking sound. That is NOT something manufactured for the film. Spielberg actually had his sound department record the ticking of Lincoln's pocket watch (yes, it still runs!) and used it in the scene. You are really hearing the pocket watch tick, as Lincoln heard it.
John Williams has written a score that doesn’t dominate the film, but carries it along in the needed moments, and remains silent in others. His recent scores (excepting War Horse) have overshadowed films and, at times, sound repetitive. Not this one. Williams, like his director, has taken a step back and let the scenes dictate the mood for the music. It is one of his best scores in long time.
What amazed me the most is that Spielberg finally seems, with the right material, to once again trust himself and not beat the audience over the head to get a point across. Gone are the ride camera moves that remind one of a E-ticket ride at Disneyland. In this, like in a John Ford film, the camera moves with a purpose, and doesn’t call attention to it. Also gone is the cloying, let-me-pull-your-heartstrings moves that has dominated so many of his recent films. He doesn’t manipulate your feelings, as he’s done in the past. The scene of Lincoln picking up his young son has an honest, heartfelt feeling to it. The emotions you feel watching that scene are honest and simple. With LINCOLN, Spielberg has made a thoughtful, truly heartfelt film that allows the audience you to become involved. LINCOLN is one of those rare films (at least nowadays) that is like a fine meal. You savior every bite, allowing the texture and taste to envelope you. Long after the screen has faded out, this film stays with you.
This is a film that will stand the test of time for centuries to come.