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Friday, November 30, 2012

Lincoln by Spielberg Review by Chris White

A few people have asked me if I have seen the new Lincoln movie and I finally got my chance the other day.  I’ve yet to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals upon which the script was based, but I found the entire film fairly true to what is generally known about Lincoln’s political side.  Lincoln is neither portrayed as cynic nor saint, but rather as a man that does have a sense of the time in which he lives and the ‘art of the possible’ in politics.  The plot centers around the introduction of the 13th Amendment (outlawing forever slavery) prior to the end of the Civil War during the lame duck session of Congress between election day and inauguration day (which used to be in March prior to FDR).  Lincoln realizes the Civil War is winding down and knows that if the South surrenders, what was allowed under the President’s war powers (in this case the Emancipation Proclamation) may not stand with any legal force in the peace, and therefore he presses for constitutional change.  How Lincoln gets there with the political machinery of his time (much of which is still in use today) and the attitudes about Abolition and retaining slavery are done with great historic authenticity.  Having read and looked at many books and pictures about the Lincoln presidency, I was greatly impressed at the re-creation of several photographic scenes in the movie.  The meticulousness (if that is an allowable word) of the set, costumes, hair, and manners were such that I felt I was really watching Lincoln at work with his staff and cabinet.   All in all, I loved the film and would recommend it.  It does contain some well-placed profanity (probably what most of us would say if in the same situation) and some very graphic violence in the form of Civil War reenactment  and so bear that in mind if you are sensitive to such things.  The only historic question I have is why the exterior of the Capitol Rotunda was portrayed as blue in the film.  Was it originally blue and then painted white later?  If anyone knows the answer please drop me a line.