Rating: 5 Stars
I just re-watched this. I’ve been meaning to, but have had trouble finding two and a half hours.
As a history geek, this movie was designed for me. This was one of those rare movies where I felt lost in it. I completely left my reality and just existed within it.
It’s trite now to say it, but Daniel Day Lewis is simply perfection. I felt as if I was watching Lincoln. His craft is so subtle that it was hidden to me. In his eyes, I saw Lincoln’s humaneness. He’s smart, full of wisdom, and often conniving, with a sly look stealing across his face as the country bumpkin pulls one more on some unsuspecting city slicker.
By the end, the war has worn him down. He’s old, tired, and moves with staggered steps of exhaustion. He has the entire world on his shoulders, he feels it, he hates it, but he bears it, knowing his duty and bound to carry it out.
Tommie Lee Jones, as Thaddeus Stevens, is also a delight. He’s old, nearly crippled, and probably dying. He’s been fighting this fight nearly his entire life, but with an iron will he shoulders on. At turns he’s irascible, loquacious, burning with energy and passion.
For a historical film, this is simply world class. I could ask for nothing better.
Just as an interesting parallel, that just like that other Spielberg example of historical perfection, Saving Private Ryan, it opens with a brutal battle. If you compare the two battle scenes you see the difference between the 19th century and the 20th century. In the 19th century, it’s up close and personal, savage, an almost anarchy of violence. In the 20th century, while still violent, it is much more mechanical, organized, and to a large extent impersonal. I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but I found it an interesting statement.