The back of an incredibly tall, lanky man filled the frame, and a thin but soothing voice filled my ears. With light coming from behind him, the man took form as he stood up and towered above everyone and everything around him. Again and again shots of Lincoln’s thin frame in a dark room were lit up, making me feel as if I were watching a ghost.
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln follows President Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to pass the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. Though the film intersperses a few battle scenes with moments of political drama, the account mainly focuses on the actions of Congress. Day-Lewis is uncanny as Lincoln — I felt like I was staring into the face of a penny.
You don’t need me for any spoilers — just open any history book. Even though everyone knows how the story ends, the movie still tells an interesting tale about how it all came to be. The film is an intriguing character study centering on one of our nation’s most famous and enigmatic presidents.
Lincoln’s struggle to gain bipartisan support for the 13th Amendment felt eerily familiar in the wake of the recent election season. Instead of jeers and brash accusations, the Republicans and Democrats in Lincoln’s time at least had some clever insults for one another. At one point Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) says to a man speaking too much on the House floor that his excessive use of oxygen is damaging to his “pulmonary activities.”
Lincoln hires three unorthodox Republican lobbyists (James Spader, Tim Blakes Nelson and John Hawkes — basically the three stooges) to ensure he gets the votes he needs for the amendment to pass. Whether they’re casually dropping bills as bribes or downright frightening congressmen, these dishonest Abes successfully stir up the story.
We all know things can move slowly in Congress, but this film demonstrated the opposite. Although the film was not exactly action-packed, its rapid-fire rhetoric kept up the film’s brisk pace. Quick wit and pithy remarks were not in short supply in what could have been a drawn-out and overly loquacious story.
Although the ending may have been about two minutes too long, and I’ve seen enough top hats and facial hair to last me a lifetime, the film’s riveting storyline and superb acting left me wanting to watch it again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Hopefully, Day-Lewis will get what he deserves — a third Oscar — and the movie will live up to its buzz-worthy expectations during the award season.