Daniel Day-Lewis gives politics a heartbeat in ‘Lincoln,’ a slow but sturdy drama.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
In its opening scene, just after a brutal hand-to-hand battle sets the muddy stage of the Civil War, a group of soldiers approach Lincoln in a tent to talk equality.
The president sits on crates, hatless. He listens, cracks a few jokes. Then they recite lines from the Gettysburg Address.
The respect — almost the awe — they have for the man here is obvious. The way they stammer when they speak. The way their eyes linger on him a few seconds too long while they turn to walk away.
For this movie to work, we need to buy into that admiration. And through Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal, how can’t we?
Day-Lewis’ Lincoln isn’t some deep-voiced hero who kicks down doors to get what he wants. He’s a politician, and an idealist. He’s the type to wrap a blanket around his shoulders to help him think.
For a guy his size, he almost comes off fragile, timid. And that’s exactly the point: He comes off human.
As a rule, I never get too excited about historical dramas, especially bio-pics, because I feel like they try to fit in too much time and events and not enough person. And, in a lot of ways, Steven Spielberg’s film does that, focusing just as much on 1800s politics as the true man behind the beard.
But it’s the quiet times between histories, the times Lincoln spends at home with his wife, Mary, with his cabinet, that make it something more.
As usual, Day-Lewis makes every second he’s on camera count, creating a character so subtle you hang on to every word and watch every expression, just to glean a better idea of what’s going on inside his head.
There are times the film gets a bit self-conscious, sure, like when Mary and Abe talk toward the end about how they’ll be remembered. But “Lincoln” plays out as a battle cry return to the old America, the one that was bold and fearless and idealistic and new. In a time of heavy division and recession, it serves as a reminder of what we’re capable of.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love “Lincoln.” But it’s dense, and not incredibly emotional. So if you’re a more casual viewer, keep that in mind, and maybe go see “Skyfall” again.
“Lincoln” (PG 13, 149 minutes)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Released: Nov. 16
**** (of five)
Like the critics have said, “Lincoln” is an easy movie to admire. If you didn’t make it out to opening weekend, consider this your second chance.
Rotten Tomatoes 90% fresh (of 155 critics)
IMDB 8.3/10 (of 4,942 fans)
Roger Ebert **** (of four)
Christy Lemire *** (of four)