The story of the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gets a very personal telling in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The movie is at its best when it takes us into the gritty arguments in Lincoln’s cabinet and the often heavy-handed lobbying and arm-twisting of wavering congressmen to vote for the amendment. Daniel Day Lewis disappears into the role (when does he not?) or Abraham Lincoln who was determined to pass the Amendment through the House of Representatives (it had previously been passed by the Senate) before the end of the Civil War. He feared that, should the war end first, a status quo of slavery in the south would continue since the Emancipation Proclamation had less firm legal footing than a Constitutional Amendment. Tommy Lee Jones is also excellent as Representative Thaddeus Stevens who harangues his colleagues and has to control his own fiery temperament to insure passage of the amendment. His story would make an interesting movie in its own right. The machinery of democracy was dirty and corrupt, but also noble and effective. On a few occasions the film lapses into “THIS IS HISTORY” mode, with soaring music and low camera angles, hitting us over the head a bit with the significance of the events, but that is a relatively minor quibble. One can sympathize with Spielberg for that indulgence when making a movie about Lincoln that is not at all a biopic but rather a story focused on one pivotal event in his life.
Planetary Scientist and Asst. Professor of Physics at University of Central Florida; Movie Buff; Trekkie; Jethro Tull fanatic; part-time actor, piano player, writer; and full-time husband and father. View all posts by JC