Lincoln is the newest brain child from Steven Spielberg. The film focuses on the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, the events leading up to the signing of the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution abolishing slavery in the United States, and the end of the Civil War.
The acting is top-notch. I would not be surprised if actor Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Republican President. He captured every aspect of the man, including the complexities spoken of in multiple history books. The entire cast puts on command performances, everyone from Sally Field playing Mary Todd Lincoln to Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens. There really wasn’t a weak performance in the entire movie, although I don’t find that terribly surprising based on the Oscar-caliber actors.
The movie essentially is one big history lesson put to film, and you won’t find much in the way of action or even suspense (at least if you are familiar with the history). The movie takes place primarily in Washington, the halls of Congress and the White House. It’s hard not to draw parallels of what went on then and what we see happening in Congress today. It’s almost funny and maybe a little sad to see how little things seem to have changed with how we get things done. I guess some comfort exists in knowing the system has allowed this country to survive and strive over all these years, so I guess there is actual logic to the madness.
As far as how historically accurate this movie is, I am no history expert, but everything seems to be on par with what I remember from high school history classes. I have heard some historians mention that the movie is a bit misleading about the events leading up to the signing of the Amendment and how it depicted Lincoln’s motivations for pushing it through. The movie to me portrayed Lincoln as a man decades ahead of his time with his thinking when it comes to believing all men are equal. He put much on the line including risking prolonging the Civil War so that he could get enough votes to pass the Amendment. Actual history though seems to paint a different picture according to some, and in fact Lincoln thought that Negroes were less than whites. His main driver for pushing through the amendment was based on avoiding future conflict based on this issue. He was not in favor of full and equal rights for black men across the board. So in essence his motivations for getting the Amendment passed seemed much more pure in the movie, which obviously makes for a better feel good story about a hero we all have come to admire, but may be less than 100% historically accurate.
Whether Hollywood embellished or just polished Lincoln’s image, I still think the movie seems to be historically accurate and very well acted. Whether you are a history buff or just want to see a glimpse of what politics were like way back when with a slew of great acting thrown in, I think this movie is one worth checking out.