Movie Review: Lincoln

All my writing 0n Lincoln is indexed here. Modern America only began when slavery died. Lincoln, more than any other popular film ever, puts the old Jeffersonian America of unbridled racism and African American enslavement on display as it endured at the end of the Civil War. The film dispels any nostalgic notion that slavery was due to wither away as reason and benevolence led the (white) American electorate to embrace equality in the mid-19th Century. It was only through the brutal path of human slaughter that non-whites were even allowed to trammel the road to freedom.

Lincoln is the finest historical movie I have ever seen. It is cerebral, funny, naturalistic, emotional, and tragic by turns. The script treats viewers as intelligent sharers in a common history that too many of us, actually, are unfamiliar with. By crediting us with knowledge we may not in fact have, the film mimics Lincoln’s own project of lifting the commonality of people above their circumstances.

Lincoln the scheming politician, the loving father, the inadequate husband, and the American visionary dominates the film. And I say that it is Lincoln who appears as himself, because there is no sign of Daniel Day Lewis in the film. His performance here is the best of his own legendary career.

Sally Field also gives her finest performance as Mary Todd. She is a wonderful actress portraying a suffering, wronged, and oppressive woman whom history too often judges only by the criteria of whether she helped her husband enough.

The supporting cast should be given a collective Oscar.

This film will be used for generations to transmit to young people and new citizens alike the values of modern America and the sacrifice and struggle, and the dying and killing, that were necessary to realize them.

TINY NITPICK: Couldn’t the film have identified at least one character as an immigrant? A quarter of the soldiers Lincoln meets would have been immigrants, but you wouldn’t know it from the film. His secretary John George Nicolay is Lincoln’s enabler in the film. He was a German immigrant, but there is no indication of that in his accent or otherwise. A lot of the White House help were Irish, but they were also not in evidence. Oh well!


About Patrick Young

Program Director of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and Supervising Attorney for the Westchester Hispanic Coalition. Blogs for Long Island Wins and New York State Immigrant Action Fund
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3 Responses to Movie Review: Lincoln

  1. Al Mackey says:

    I agree, Pat. It’s an excellent film, and I think many teachers will find it very useful in the classroom.

  2. Natalie says:

    Admittedly, I have been both looking forward to and dreading this film for a number of years now. I’m happy to see a favorable review from you before I go to the theater!

  3. Pingback: More Comments on Spielberg’s Lincoln « Student of the American Civil War

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