On Spielberg’s Lincoln

Dear sir

I had to put this down because it’s the only thought swirling in my head when mama sent me out to buy kang-kong for dinner. I watched Lincoln this afternoon sir, the Steven Spielberg 2012 biopic of the American president. It received a handful of film awards and gave Daniel Day Lewis his third Oscar best-actor statue. Funny, I was supposed to watch Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. But after five minutes, I figured the movie’s trash when Abe’s mom started getting possessed. So I clicked on the next available Abe flick, and for the next three hours, I was engrossed. No, the film wasn’t that long, but I just had to rewind some parts because it was either too moving, or clever, or just too darn quotable.

The film focused on the 16th president’s last months, particularly his battle to pass the 13th amendment and struggle to end the civil war. I’m familiar with Abraham Lincoln, which means I only know his position as America’s favorite president, that he’s some slavery-hater, equality-promoter, freedom-fighter hero. Americans placed him on a pedestal, quite literally. He’s legendary, but I didn’t know the back-story.

Lincoln gave a glimpse of that. It showed a president with iron resolve that stubbornly upheld his principles, that had to include necessary but wise compromises. Heavy yet warm, it gives you an idea what HONEST world leaders have to go through, push, and sometimes bend for progress.

Daniel Day-Lewis rightfully deserved that award. Kate Winslet once mentioned that he is one of the very few thespians who can snap in and out of character within an ‘action’ and a ‘cut’ (Leo DiCaprio also part of the rare breed). His shoulders were ever slumped not only because he towers over everyone, but a physical manifestation of the load he carries for and due to everyone. The make-up and lines may have transformed him, but it’s the eyes that displayed the sorrow and sincerity, and the melodic speech which gave the gentle authority. I love how he commands order with that voice, particularly in this scene: frantic to get battle news from the wires, a whole room was in chaos when out of nowhere Abe shouted and silenced everyone, then very casually proceeded to tell a story. It stilled the room, the war almost forgotten, all eyes on him like children listening to grandpa’s bedtime story. He’s got a knack for telling stories to make a point, like Jesus with his parables. Common people drank on it. His cabinet, who bore the brunt, were irked by it.

Day-Lewis’ graceful portrayal, combined with Spielberg’s intimate directing – dim lights, sharp dialogue, brilliant speeches (as it should be), exquisite acting, dancing shadows, and that famous top-hat silhouette – gave the film its required gravitas. And It was at its finest during the human moments: when the president was alone with his wife addressing their un-shared grief, or with his oldest son struggling to impose authority as a father and commander-in-chief (to no avail), or the times he lets his guard down in the company of trusted colleagues. It presented the man underneath the myth, the leader who aged a decade in a year. It humanized the legend, and he became more admirable.

I’m not done with this film sir. I still have to re-watch it, sift through the script, and find more nuggets. I’ll tell you about it next time. Hope you went get bored with all my nonsense. You’ll understand what I’m saying if you watch it.




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