Where This Meets That
When I first heard that Spielberg had signed Daniel Day Lewis on to play Abraham Lincoln, I immediately assumed Lewis would take home the Oscar. Now that I’ve actually seen the film, I stand by my original assumption.
Few actors are as dedicated to their craft as is Lewis. While I tend to roll my eyes at the lengths some method actors go through to put themselves into character, it’s hard to deny Lewis’s brilliance on screen. I consider his Oscar-winning performance in There Will Be Blood to be one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, but I was interested to see how he would handle the role of Lincoln.
I sometimes have trouble suspending my disbelief while watching big-name actors take on biographical roles, finding it hard to see the character through the actor (i.e., Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash). Not the case here. In fact, there were moments when I found myself a little creeped out at how authentic Lewis seemed as Lincoln, moments when the eyes alone remained Lewis’s and everything else became Lincoln.
A few casting missteps aside (I’m not a big Tommy Lee Jones fan, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ubiquity is starting to wear thin), the film is laden with strong performances (particularly Sally Field as the First Lady). It is full of reminders – some sad and some silly – of how politics, as Ronald Reagan famously declared, so closely resembles prostitution. In the end, though, the film goes as does its lead, and it is Lewis’s ability to carry it that makes the film great.
In Lincoln, Spielberg and Lewis show us a leader of a broken nation, a broken philosophy, and a broken family, a leader who himself would be broken but for those depending on his strength. Spielberg’s Lincoln recognizes his fragile crossroads of history and forges a path through a legally and ethically murky no-man’s land, determined to set the United States on a course to heal into a nation stronger than it was before the Civil War.
Lincoln score: 4 Falcone Rings