Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln brings to life the mythical ol’ Abe by focusing on his masterful political skills. The film plays out as a procedural court-room drama in this case focusing on the raucous debates that once filled our House of Representatives in the mid to late 19th century. The film is a mix of 1865-era C-SPAN coverage of the highly contentious floor debate, some Sorkin-level West Wing presidential drama and a nice dash of Lincoln’s domestic life with Mary Todd and his boys. Famed playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) adapted the film from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s award-winning book Team of Rivals. The book received a big bump in notoriety four years ago when it was name-dropped as being on then President-Elect Obama’s book list. The movie is more like an elaborate Broadway play than anything else. That is a very good thing for this film.
The movie is ostensibly 20 Angry Men with the bulk of the film concerning Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) desire to get the 13th Amendment passed in Congress before the Civil War ends. To get it passed he needs to convince at least 20 lame-duck Democrat representatives to vote for it. Lincoln is looking down the road just far enough to realize that once the Rebel states are defeated and begin their reconstruction, they are not going to be easily persuaded to abolish slavery. The lawyer in him also understands that the Emancipation Proclamation from 1863 was technically a war-time legal maneuver to confiscate their “property” (i.e. slaves) which will end when the war ends.
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