“Lincoln” is one of the best movies in years

To put it bluntly, “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, is one of the best films I’ve seen in years.

I’ve long been an admirer of arguably our nation’s greatest president. I’ve read several accounts of his life. Among my favorites are Doris Kearns Goodwin’s  “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” “Civil War: Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson, and “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald.

The beauty of Spielberg’s film is that it’s not the typical Hollywood attempt at revisionist history, glossing over any imperfections of the true Abraham Lincoln. It’s the most true to life presentation of our 16th president I’ve ever seen.

Its reality reminded me of Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and how those battle scenes appeared so authentic.

The movie covers the final few months of Lincoln’s life, focusing on his efforts to get the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (abolishing slavery) passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln as a simple backwoods lawyer, always eager to share an enlightening parable, hiding to most the brilliance of his political skills, was remarkable.

I can only imagine the difficulty of portraying one of the most famous personas in American history, with so many quirks and unique features, and yet Day-Lewis instantly draws you in and makes the two-and-a-half-hour movie fly by in the blink of an eye.

Day-Lewis is supported by a marvelous cast including Sally Field, who was outstanding as Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd, or “Molly” as Lincoln called her.
David Strathairn is great as William Seward – Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Hal Holbrook, who is always among my favorite character actors, is convincing as the conservative leader Preston Blair.

James Spader surprises as one of Seward’s hucksters scouring for votes. But the best portrayal next to Day-Lewis is clearly Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens – the sharp-tongued leader of the Abolitionist movement and powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

This movie is little on battle scenes and high on political dialogue, which kept me engrossed throughout.

Lincoln’s interaction with his family, members of his cabinet, representatives from the House, and conversations with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, are the centerpieces of this film. It captures Lincoln’s brilliance, the immense challenges he faced, and the great toll it took on him and his family.

I would encourage everyone to see this movie. It’s not a shoot-em-up, action-packed thrill ride like most of today’s releases. It’s historical, uplifting, heart-breaking and always engrossing.

Simply put, I consider it a masterpiece I plan on seeing again.

You may email Joel McNeece at joelmcneece@gmail.com