Friday, October 12, 2012


By D.E.Levine

A NYFF50 Sneak Preview

Although it deals only with the four months prior to President Lincoln's assassination, the emphasis of this fantastic film is on showing how our political system works.

Lincoln, who had to deal with people who resented his having been elected President, especially when he beat them for the office, is shown as knowing he has to work with these same people to get the 13th Amendment on the abolishment of slavery passed by the House of Representatives.  Having signed the amendment and gotten it passed easily by the Senate, it is the split House and the Civil War that are holding up the final passage.

Written by Tony Kushner and produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, Lincoln appears as the primary orchestrator who will get the amendment passed.  But he is also the individual who sets in motion a series of actions to cajole and use any other means possible to change the minds of Democratic holdouts.,

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, who gives an amazing performance interpreting Lincoln, there is an outstanding cast of supporting actors such as Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward, and Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair, the founder of the Republican Party.  The cast is large and there are no bad performances.

Concentrating on the time frame between January 1865 and the end of the Civil War on April 9th, followed by Lincoln's assassination five days later, this is a look at history rather than at biography.

Interspersed are scenes of the Union (including black regiments) and Confederate soldiers on the battlefield.  Also, we see Mary Todd Lincoln, as the woman behind the man.  Although depressed over the death of one of her sons, she is presented not as a crazy woman but as a definite positive and supportive wife, playing an important part in counseling the President on his actions and advising him on how to achieve his goals.

Kusher does a remarkable job of juggling large numbers of players and subplots with ease and clarity.  An indicator of just how good the script and performances are is  that when the film is finished the viewer wants to research the political figures and learn more about them.

According to Spielberg, he got interested in doing the film a decade ago and it took ten years to put it together.  The wait was well worth it.  This is a brilliant and informative film about a very important President and a very important time in history.