A couple of years ago I spent the summer immersed in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”; imbued with remarkable scholarship and monumental respect for a man who changed a country, freed a population; now, almost a hundred and fifty years after his death is revered, lionized, quoted feverishly and consistently by all political parties; a perspicacious visionary, a man for all times, Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln” based on Goodwin’s biography is intensely intelligent, honest to the times and luminously acted, especially by the fastidiously -gifted, Daniel Day Lewis as “Lincoln”. Lewis delved into the essence of the man and unearths Lincoln’s astute ability of knowing how it feels to stand in another’s shoes; walk, talk and listen to soldiers still fighting and those maimed in the war; questing to understand the burden of being “black” and invisible; intransigent in ratifying the thirteenth amendment . Lincoln had the mettle of the mighty and Lewis exhibits its strength in every wrenching scene.
Sally Field gives her finest performance in years as “Mary Todd Lincoln”: disturbed, bright, insightful, mourning a dead son and fearing for the demise of another; loving, admiring her husband, forecasting the worshipful legacy of Lincoln as well as her tarnished, tainted reputation, molded into perpetuity. Field puts a human, sensitive, painful face on the wounded First Lady.
“A Team of Rivals” focuses on Lincoln’s unique talent of incorporating his adversaries into his political arena; a prime example was William Henry Seward (New York, Senator) a “rival” for the office of the Presidency; appointed Secretary of State and a faithful, perpetual friend of the President. David Strathairn’s portrayal is superbly solid, refined, legitimate.
Tommy Lee Jones as “Thaddeus Stevens” (feisty, abolitionist from Pennsylvania) is astounding; he captures the erudite, acid-tongued, curmudgeon as no other actor could .
The film’s greatness lies in the struggle not only to end the Civil War but passing the 13th amendment; what is obvious and accepted in the twenty-first century was obtained by besting massive obstacles. “Lincoln” shines in depicting the divisiveness of Congress in 1865; knowing the outcome did not diminish the excitement, temerity, struggle manifested by each man casting his “yea” or “nay”; audiences cheer with the final positive number.
“Lincoln” soars as a film, a history lesson, and the visual actualization that the force of the written and spoken word, can irrevocably alter a nation.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!