On Monday November 26th I watched the recently released film Lincoln, at United Artists Cinema in Long Beach. Lincoln was directed by Steven Spielberg and released in cinemas around the United States on November 16th, 2012. The film had a well-known cast with Lincoln’s character was played by Daniel Day-Lewis, Mary Todd Lincoln by Sally Field, William Seward by David Strathaim and Thaddeus Stevens by Tommy Lee Jones. The film was based on Doris Kearns Goodwin biography titled ‘Team of Rival: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln’. After the release of the book Spielberg became fascinated with Lincoln’s character and gained the film rights to the book. Shortly after pre-production for the film began back in 1999.
The story line is based around the last four months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life during his second term of his presidency. The Civil War is believed to be coming to an end and the northern states of the union continue to fight the southern confederate states in an effort to abolish slavery. The film heavily focuses on the month of January in 1865 where Lincoln directed his efforts on passing the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution through the House of Representatives. Previous to the amendment in 1963, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which proclaimed all slaves in the United States to be ‘forever free,’ including those men from the confederate states that were in rebellion during the war. Most people thought that the war was coming to an end within the coming months and Lincoln believed the Emancipation Proclamation would be disregarded once the war ended and peace was established. Passing the thirteenth amendment was precious to President Lincoln as it formally and legally outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude of all peoples of the United States.
Lincoln so far has been very well received and there are many elements that make the film both notable and exemplary. Many critics are already prophesizing Daniel Day-Lewis to be a top contender for the Academy Award for Best Actor and the film to be voted Best Picture of the year. Daniel Day-Lewis does a fantastic job at bringing Lincoln’s character to life and gives him a very likeable demur for the audience. His ability to become the character, captures the great man that President Lincoln was. Due to the narrow focus of the story line the audience is able to grasp Lincoln in a way that is unprecedented by other story tellers. Sally Field is also very convincing in her role as Mary Todd Lincoln with an emotional nature as she mourns the loss of her young son Willie.
The film is very consistent with the events of the time and paints an accurate and believable picture for the audience of life during the civil war for both soldiers and diplomats. They highlight how President Lincoln was a wind of change during the difficult and turbulent time during the Civil War. The film explains the importance and actual proceedings that were involved with passing of the thirteenth amendment to all viewers in a way that is enjoyable to both history buffs and younger audience members with a less detailed knowledge of the time.
Although the film has been well received flaws can be observed by viewers. The story line only covers a very short space of time of the last four months of Lincoln’s life. It would have been interesting for the audience to have learnt more about Lincoln’s two terms as president. The films focuses exclusively on the passing of the thirteenth amendment and leaves out other significant achievements of Lincoln and important on goings during that period. This narrow subject area focus made the film quite slow for the audience. Sections of the film seemed to drag on and may have been cut out to include a larger time scale of events.
The film highlighted what a great leader Lincoln was. It showed how he was strong in times of adversity and continued to flight for the rights of all America men. He held his moral ground on the issue of slavery and ensured that he achieved equality for African Americans. Lincoln role was important as he established America as the land of freedom for all. At the end of the film Lincoln is assassinated. It is a sad moment in the film yet highlights the notoriety that comes with holding such a prominent position of office and that sensitive political topics sometimes cause irrational behavior among citizens.
In the wake of the recent presidential election the lessons of Lincoln seem particularly relevant. The election of President Barak Obama as the first African American president was a landmark in American politics and society. It was also a victory for the legacy of President Lincoln who emancipated colored slaves and set them free on American soil. Obamas election as president highlights the good work that Lincoln fought for and achieved with his Emancipation Proclamation and the passing of the thirteenth amendment.
Lincoln the film is an outstanding example of how democracy can be used to achieve great things. The film highlighted that the political process can be very difficult especially when trying gain approval from both political parties on sensitive issues. The scene that follows the morning of the vote on the thirteenth amendment is very emotional as the senators each take time to cast their individual vote. This highlights the importance of the individual in maintaining a democracy that is fair and representative of the people’s voices.
The strong spirit and moral code that Lincoln bought to his role as president are characteristics that should be emulated by current and future presidents and members of congress in the United States. Lincoln stood behind his demand for peace with the southern states. US political leaders should strive to achieve peace with nations yet ensure that human rights abuses are not being violated by the enemy. The US should stand on the moral high ground to protect the freedoms of the citizens in their jurisdiction. Lincoln believed that the abolishment of slavery needed to be rooted in the law and stood behind this decision to ensure that he achieved the right outcome for the American people. US politicians must ensure that they make choices which benefit all US citizens and are of a high ethical standard.
The legalization of gay marriage may be the modern equivalent to the outlaw of slavery though the thirteenth amendment in 1865. Earlier this year President Obama officially stated that he endorsed the legalization on gay marriage and that he believes homosexual couples should be able to marry in the United States. This is similar to Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation which gave indication that Lincoln personally felt slavery was cruel and inhumane. Lincoln’s courageous efforts for liberty are still being replicated within the political system. During the recent election Maryland and Maine both passed laws to legalize gay marriage and create equality. The passing of these state laws highlights a step by President Obama, US Senators and the American people to continue Lincoln’s legacy of creating freedom of choice for all in the United States.