Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Uncanny Lincoln Portrait


By Skip Sheffield

That is my one-word description of “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg’s tribute to America’s embattled 16th President as portrayed by British actor Daniel Day-Lewis.
Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book with screenplay by Tony Kusher, “Lincoln” centers on the last four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life, as he waged an emotional battle to pass the 13th Amendment, banning slavery in the USA as the Civil War raged on.
Two-time Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis bears an uncanny resemblance to tall, thin, you could say gaunt and haunted, Abraham Lincoln.
“I am keenly aware of my aloneness” muses Lincoln after the Battle of Gettysburg.
It is hard for us to imagine how passionate and contentious the fight over slavery was. It did in fact divide the nation and lead to the War Between the States. Lincoln was the man at the helm through the whole murderous struggle. Through his performance, Day-Lewis shows us the courage, perseverance and political brilliance of one of America’s strongest Presidents in history.
Lincoln did not do it alone. At his side was his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, beautifully portrayed by Sally Field. Mary provided Abraham his conscience and compassion. Like her husband she was tough and sometimes stubborn, having endured the unbearable loss of a son.
One of Lincoln’s strongest allies and close friend was Secretary of State William Seward, played with strength and dignity by David Strathairn.
Tommy Lee Jones provides whimsical comic relief as fiery abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, wearing a ridiculous wig his character even comments upon.
Lincoln’ has an epic scale to it, and it does not spare the violence and carnage of the Civil War. It does underline the moral courage required of Lincoln, even though he was forced to bend the rules and even resort to bribery to achieve his end.
It is highly ironic that in Lincoln’s time the Republican Party was the liberal, even radical party and the Democrats were the state’s rights, bible-thumping conservatives. How things have changed.

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