An honest classic

by Gazette Reporter
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AFTER quite a good 2012, 2013 has a bit to live up to. I mean, how could the highs of Battleship be topped?
I kid, Battleship is terrible and everyone involved (bar Liam Neeson and the three lads from Friday Night Lights) should never be allowed make a film again.
However, based on this evidence, 2013 is off to a flier.
With Lincoln, the world’s most iconic director (Steven Spielberg) teams with the world’s best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and drags in an all-star cast, a revered book and the writer of Spielberg’s best film of the last decade, Munich.
Eschewing the early years, the log cabin and the start of the American Civil War, Spielberg’s film instead focuses on the final four months of the life of the 16th President of the United States.
Bogged down in his attempts to get the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed, the film tells the story of the Lincoln that time has forgotten; the skilled politician, the savvy negotiator.
In the rush to annoint him Honest Abe, the caricature of a wide-eyed idealist, a man of unimpeachable morals and guidance emerged.
What that portrayal has lost and what this film, along with its source material (the frankly excellent Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin) regain is a sense of a man willing to use the machine to achieve his aims.
Here, he is aided by his one-time rival for the Republican presidential candidacy William Seward, played brilliantly by David Strathairn.
Strathairn is a fine actor and his portrayal of Edward R Murrow counts as an all-time favourite of this writer, but this a career best.
That the  man who played Deep Throat, Hal Holbrook, is in Lincoln is fitting because this is more All The President’s Men than it is Schindler’s List.
The politicking and lobbying is done in private, cigar-smoked rooms at a pace best described as leisurely.
At two and a half hours long, Lincoln is not a quick romp, but it does tackle one of the singular most important figures in Western history in less time than Peter Jackson took to tell a third of a 297-page book, so it’s not that long.
Nor is it boring, as brilliant performance follows brilliant performance with one Englishman standing head and shoulders above the rest.
That Daniel Day-Lewis should dominate a star-studded cast should surprise absolutely nobody.
He did it in 2002 for Gangs of New York and again in 2007 for There Will Be Blood and here, his Lincoln is breathtaking.
A wise leader, an ambitious man and a flawed husband, Day-Lewis hits all the right notes.
Spielberg’s attraction to the project is obvious but his past in biopics is limited, with only Schindler’s List and, maybe Catch Me If You Can falling into the category.
Here, his propensity for myth and legend is tempered by the brilliant script from Tony Kushner, who holds the film to an almost documentary like fidelity to the source material.
Lincoln will be released in Ireland on January 25.

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