By Auke van der Veen (Star rating: 4/4)
At the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, Steven Spielberg’s commercial success Lincoln was awarded with two golden statuettes. Set during the last months of the American Civil War, the movie deals with Abraham Lincoln’s attempts to abolish slavery.
When you think of the individual Lincoln, images emerge of a tall guy with a high hat and a beard, somehow capable of solving big issues. But what was he really like? And how did he accomplish all his achievements? Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner answer those questions brilliantly by portraying the man as a real person – as someone we might know from our daily lives.
The Oscar for best actor is more than deserved: Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t portray Lincoln, he is Lincoln. We see a down-to-earth figure, who knew how to practically solve matters. We see a man who spent many hours alone in his study, who made his speeches so short people would laugh. Abraham Lincoln was no oiled-up politician like the ones today are; he was simply an ex-country lawyer with a little political influence and a burning desire to change things.
The movie is a historical drama, with the action happening mostly confined to government buildings. Lincoln and his staff have to go to great lengths to get most of the Democrats and even some Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment to end slavery. We all know how the story ends, but the movie depicts an exciting fight for justice and a great study of people. Particularly Sally Field as the First Lady impresses.
It may come as a surprise that various crucial parts of Lincoln’s life and fame, such as the Gettysburg Address, are not shown in the movie. Yet contrary to my expectations, this didn’t matter: it just makes the story more powerful.