Prior to seeing this movie, I read quite a bit about Daniel Day Lewis’s method acting and his approach to truly embodying the role of Lincoln. The lengths he went to (writing letters to Sally Field and signing them “Abe,” having Steven Spielberg only call him “Mr. President) were incredible. My verdict? It worked, like whoa.
I can’t even adequately describe what it’s like watching him play this role. In fact, it isn’t even like watching him play a role at all. You watch and think, “Oh, there’s Sally Field. There’s Joseph Gordon Levitt. There’s Tommy Lee Jones. There’s Lincoln.” Daniel Day Lewis is Lincoln. Everyone gives fantastic performances, but he is simply on another level (and, let’s be honest, should probably start practicing that Oscar speech now).
The movie’s, and Daniel Day Lewis’s, portrayal of Lincoln is fascinating, and two things stuck out. First, the film really emphasizes Lincoln as a father. I watched a piece on 60 Minutes about how Spielberg’s evolving relationship with his own dad shaped his portrayal of fathers in his movies, and you can definitely see that in play here – there are some extremely poignant scenes of Lincoln with his son, Tad. The second detail I noticed was how the film depicted Lincoln as having a wry sense of humor; I’m not sure if the real Lincoln was like that, but it plays very well in the film.
But what struck me most about the movie was that, despite the Daniel Day Lewis heroics and the film’s own title, it’s not so much about Lincoln as it is about the political process itself. And as a political and legal nerd, I found that incredible to watch. I loved all the behind the scenes strategizing, the impassioned debates on the House floor, and the political scheming (and, let’s be honest, vote buying). To watch this movie is to marvel over how incredible it is when big changes actually happen in Washington – a message that feels just as relevant today as it did in 1865.
My Grade: A
(Image via The Washington Times)