I don’t cry in movies. The only time I had to fight back tears during a movie was “The Last Samurai.” There have been a few others where I’ve gotten close, most recently during “Les Miserables”; unless your heart is made of cold hard steel, you’re bound to get emotional during Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into “Lincoln”, Steven Spielberg’s latest film depicting President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment towards the end of the American Civil War. The Amendment effectively abolishes slavery for all of the United States.
Little did I know, this would be the film that would bring a tear to my eye.
I will spare you the plot summary, and just say that it’s typical Spielberg: crisp dialogue, smooth writing, flawless tone and atmosphere, and a fantastic huge ensemble cast (I kept on trying to tell my friend “hey this is the guy from “Mad Men” (Jared Harris) / “24” (Gregory Itzin) / “Watchmen” (Jackie Earle Haley) / “Boardwalk Empire” (Michael Stuhlberg) !) headed by the amazing Daniel Day Lewis. I rooted for Hugh Jackman to win the best actor Oscar for his role in “Les Miserables” before watching “Lincoln”. Sorry, Hugh. This was Daniel’s year (again). His portrayal of someone who is burdened by war, politics, family, and his vision of a country freed of slavery, is uncanny. In the midst of so much adversity, we can see past his wearied aging figure and find undying optimism.
I want to label this film as ‘selectively brilliant’. I have encountered a few people who said that they found the film boring, and didn’t know what went on. But when I asked, they knew very little about American politics and the legacy of Lincoln. Personally, I love history, but more importantly, I am fascinated by American politics. So for me, having a little bit of knowledge of how American politics works today, the film connected with me on an emotional level.
The way in which the Republican party had to procure enough votes to secure passage of the 13th Amendment, plus the implications of its passage, was highlighted in a variety of ways. We see the opposing parties yell at each other in Congress; we see the President’s African-American helper plead with him; we see turmoil within the President’s own party. All of it built up to immerse the audience into feeling just how important it was, for Lincoln and for America, to pass that Amendment. That is why, when the climax of the film concluded, I cheered with the Republican congressmen, and I cried with them.
I definitely believe that “Lincoln” should have won Best Picture (I’ve seen all of the nominees except “Life of Pi” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild”). I loved “Argo”, but it didn’t make me cry! But like I said, I especially love this film because of my passion for history and American politics, and I fear that many do not share the same sentiment.