LEWIS INVIGORATES LINCOLN'S MEMORY
History records much of Lincoln’s life, but through Steven Spielberg’s directorial lens we glimpse a portion of the humanity behind the legend. The two hours, thirty-minute biopic did not focus on the staggering Civil War body-count battle scenes, or on Lincoln’s oratory skills, but on the man himself. Spielberg showed us a leader grappling to end a war, free a people and reunite a divided nation. Though familiar with the historical events, I began to grasp the monumental obstacles he faced, not only from his own party (Republican), but also from the Democratic Party, as well as the secession states. He refused offers of easier political compromise and faced down a tidal wave of opposition with gritty determination and grace. Lewis was stupendous in conveying these images to a present day audience.
Two-time Academy Award winner, Sally Field turned in a marvelously nuanced performance as Mary-Todd Lincoln. History reveals a tragic portrait of this First Lady. However, Field engenders empathy for her character who battled personal demons while beating back the threat of impending insanity, (a tribute to her acting prowess). Tommy Lee Jones was brilliant as the singular no-nonsense Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, whose dog-with-a-bone attitude championed equality across all opposing lines.
Several notables have played Lincoln on screen over the years; among them Greats like Gregory Peck and Jason Robards. Yet, Lewis’ interpretation revealed elements of Lincoln’s persona not soon to be forgotten as evidenced by his Golden Globe nomination.
If the concept of this film was to capture the public imagination with a more intimate look at our 16th President, it succeeded. As it drew to a close I felt I’d been privy to the inner workings of an iconic man, and a pivotal point in American history.