This has been a busy movie weekend for us! We actually saw Life of Pi last night since Lincoln was sold out. So off we went this morning to see the earliest showing of Lincoln.
In making this film, director Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner decided to focus on a small portion of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. In January 1865, the Civil War was winding down. Lincoln had just been re-elected to a second term, and his popularity was soaring. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution had previously been ratified by the Senate, but it needed approval by a 2/3 majority of the House of Representatives in order to be enacted. In early January, Lincoln gave his Cabinet the mission of persuading the members of the House (including many lame-duck Democrats) to pass the amendment by the end of the month.
The task fell mostly to Secretary of State William Seward (later best known for engineering the purchase of Alaska from the Russians). Seward authorized his minions to do nearly anything to secure the necessary votes. Their most promising form of persuasion was in the form of government jobs at the conclusion of Congressional terms.
The machinations of Lincoln and Seward are interspersed with the everyday life of the Lincoln family, as well as scenes from the War. Many of the War scenes are brutal and graphic, and not for the faint of heart. Since we know of Lincoln’s fate, the vignettes of the Lincoln family daily life are poignant and sad.
Spielberg has assembled a most outstanding cast. Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones; the list goes on. All of them deliver stellar performances in this stunning film.
And as a bonus, the iTunes store has available for free downloading a short book about the making of the film, with interviews from the major players who made this film happen.