Friday, November 23, 2012


Last Wednesday my wife and I went to see the movie Lincoln and came away impressed once again with Steven Spielberg's ability as a story-teller and filmmaker. To my untutored eye everything about the film seemed genuine, from the sets, to the costumes, to the dialogue, to the corrupt way politics was done in the 19th century (and in the 21st century).

I was a bit concerned at the outset when it looked as if the film was going to wallow in political correctness and white guilt, but it didn't, or if it did, it didn't seem to detract at all from the story of how Abraham Lincoln and his supporters in Congress managed to get the 13th amendment to the Constitution passed.

The movie captures dramatically the enormous pressures Lincoln (played magnificently by Daniel Day-Lewis) was under not only because of the carnage of the Civil War, and not only because of the uphill political battle he was fighting, but also because of his marriage to the emotionally troubled Mary Todd (also played magnificently by Sally Field). Despite these pressures he was able somehow to keep himself calm and focused on the tasks set before him - preserving the union and freeing the slaves.

Historians may find this or that detail to quibble about, but one comes away from the theater with a renewed appreciation for Lincoln as a man and a leader. If there was one thing that I'd caution potential viewers about it's that it might be difficult to follow the story unless one has a little background knowledge of who some of the key players are. Spielberg sets a fast pace that doesn't suffer a wandering mind.

Another thing that struck me and made me wonder if it was intentional was that Spielberg seemed insistent on impressing upon the viewer that the opponents to the 13th amendment were almost all Democrats. He seemed at times to go out of his way to point this out. It was a bit odd since Spielberg is himself a Democrat, but it's an interesting historical tidbit that the party that African-Americans are so loyal to today is historically the party which, had they had their way, would have kept blacks in slavery and would have kept them as second class citizens once they were freed.

Anyway, Lincoln is an outstanding film and I encourage you to see it.