Yesterday, I went to see the movie Lincoln. Bravo, Steven Spielberg and the cast! The scenery and images were superb, and as always, Spielberg had assembled a stellar cast. Tommy Lee Jones was superb as Thadeuss Stevens, an avid supporter of racial equality. That proud Texan and Harvard grad never disappoints. Sally Field also was amazing as Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman holding onto sanity amid the pressures of a wartime White House and the loss of a young son. The actor at the heart of the drama, however, is Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Day-Lewis' Lincoln spellbinds. Whenever he is on camera, I can't take my eyes from him. He dominates the screen as only he can.
I first saw Day-Lewis in the 1980s. He'd played a gay tough in My Beautiful Laundrette and an effete aristocrat in A Room with a View. Both films emerged in the same year, but Day-Lewis is unrecognizable in each role. He embodied the characters, and many people were shocked but impressed to learn the characters been portrayed by the same actor. He is a man who lives the fates of his characters. When playing Christie Brown, the crippled Irish actor, Day-Lewis lived in his wheelchair and learned to write with his left foot. He so channeled the role of Hamlet that he had to leave the role when memories of his late father, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, began haunting him. Day-Lewis has never failed to impress. He is convincing as the lecherous doctor Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and as the tortured Puritan farmer John Proctor in The Crucible. He is a scout in The Last of the Mohicans. He is a wrongfully convicted Irishman in In the Name of the Father and a ruthless oilman but doting father in There Will Be Blood. While filming The Crucible, Day-Lewis formed a lasting friendship with Arthur Miller, and soon, the son of a man of letters married Rebecca Miller, the daughter of a man of letters.
And now Lincoln. Day-Lewis ably portrays Lincoln's kindness and humanity while still showing the steel within the man. He converses with African-American soldiers and tells anecdotal tales to his staff. He is a loving father to his sons as well as a tolerant husband to his unhappy but loving wife. However, Lincoln also is a determined man. He argues the law with the acumen of men more educated than he and is willing to use subterfuge to gain passage of an amendment he deems fair and essential to the survival of the country. Through it all, Day-Lewis lets the appropriate emotions grace his face. Spielberg's lighting and direction also illustrate the isolation as well as humanity of the man. We see every doubt as well as kindness on the man's well-lined visage. We also see him walk down a long hallway, his back to the camera as he deals with conflicts within his family, his party, and his country.
Bravo to a talented cast and director!