For the past twelve months every serious scribe has felt the need at least once to share deep thoughts about “Spielberg’s Lincoln.” It’s only going to get worse given the Academy Award nominations. I warned you. You can stop reading here. Here are mine.
It’s uncanny how our era mirrors the Civil War era, in a funhouse mirror sort of way. The skinny president from Illinois, the uncivil wranglings between blue and gray/red, the rush in gun sales. We have a zoo’s worth of John Wilkes Booth types standing in line.
It’s a good movie. Spielberg wants to be good in both moral and artistic ways. Trying so hard creates a volatile mix, always threatening to explode and fling goops of sentiment onto all surfaces. Do you suppose he could retire that “Who was that man who did so much to ennoble our lowly lives” look? Why, it was Daniel somebody or other.
Gore is the antidote to goop. Throw in Omaha Beach or Fredricksburg, some mangled bodies. Even better, serve up both in supersize portions a la “War Horse.”
Mr. Daniel was awfully good. I loved his weariness, and the way he and Sally Field went after each other. I believed in their portrayals, how their lives were so dense with grief. And even better, I believed that Lincoln continued to laugh, which our current man from Illinois still seems able to do.
“My experience has taught me that a man who has no vices has damned few virtues.” (Lincoln’s Spielberg)