Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Most Americans know that the Civil War was the bloodiest battle in American history. However, not nearly as many know of the brutal legal battle President Abraham Lincoln fought during the war’s bloodiest days in order to pass one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history, the Thirteenth Amendment, which would abolish slavery.
Tony Kushner’s screenplay, which draws a great deal from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, paints a picture of the last few months of Lincoln’s life, as he battles war of all sorts – from the Southern secessionists, from opposing politicians, from his own cabinet, from the American public, and even from his wife, played with ferocity by Sally Field. Kushner draws a contemporary audience into an utterly unfamiliar time period with humor, wit, heart, and above all by bringing the tall man so idolized in our society a bit closer to the earth.
Daniel Day-Lewis’s Abraham Lincoln is the strong yet kindly father-figure of the nation. With his infamous beard and top-hat, Day-Lewis is the spitting image of Lincoln, right down to the gaunt wrinkles in his face. He plays the presidential great with a gentleness and subtlety that allows him to express Lincoln’s love of humor and storytelling, as well as his headstrong determination and deep emotional connection to the nation. A single tear dripping down his face set the whole audience into waterfalls of sobs. Tommy Lee Jones is also a standout as wonderfully sarcastic radical Republican abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, who grapples with his moral conscience in order to help the greater good.
Lincoln questions not only what it means to be an American and to take full advantage of the rights living here entails, but also what it means to be a good human being. It explores just how far men are willing to go in order to exploit others for the benefit of mankind and the future. It questions the nature of motives when it comes to forceful legal action and military strategy. History tells us what happened. The movie Lincoln explores why.