VALLEY VIEW, Ohio - If you aren't a fan of American history, or a fan of the 16th President of the U.S., then the new Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln" will be tough popcorn to swallow. It's bad enough the buttery treat has no health value and is way too expensive.
"Lincoln" will have you squirming in your seat to adjust your posterior more than a few times. In fact, I saw two people doze off while at least five others were in the REM stage.
"Lincoln" is based on a book written by famed historian Dorris Kearns Goodwin, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Spielberg has said the book is too big for a feature film which is why he chose to focus on the last few years of Lincoln's life. I can tell you if you're expecting any action packed sequences, you won't find them in the traditional spots.
There's no Captain America throwing his mighty shield. No giant green monster getting mad enough he can crush aliens with a single swing of his hand. There are no special gadgets, cool cars, blue, black, or red tights swinging through a city and climbing on walls. Rather, the actions sequences are carefully scripted in the dialogue. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, it won't require deductive reasoning to see its full flare rapid-fire pinpointed smacks to the face. It will only require you to do one thing: pay attention.
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Oscar winner Daniel Day Lewis's performance is masterful as he shows the different emotions of Lincoln. From dealing with members in his cabinet, who at first don't seem to share his vision of the 13th Amendment, to dealing with the death of his son, his two other children, then his wife, and emoting humor through his colorful stories at a time of tense actions or negotiations.
Carefully listen to the story he tells about George Washington. It's pretty funny. But to me, the show stopper came from a person I thought was just thrown in the movie to round out an all-star cast. Tommy Lee Jones may mess around and get a best supporting actor nod. His performance was brilliant. He didn't speak much but when he did, he controlled the room. Almost every time he spoke was as good as an action packed thriller. His tongue was as strong as Thor's hammer or Iron Man's suit of armor.
"How can I hold that all men are created equal when here standing before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentlemen from Ohio. Proof that some men are inferior. Endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason, with cold pallet slime in their veins instead of hot red blood. You are more reptile than man," Jones said through his character Thaddeus Stevens.
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Ouch! Can you do that with your tongue? Jones speaks like that throughout the film throwing verbal jabs in consecutive motions like a fighter who has his opponent pinned against the ropes.
Jones also has a key moment of surprise once the amendment passes that you won't see coming. Your emotions and heart will take a big gulp. Spielberg's Chris Nolan type surprise does not come out of left field. Rather, it's not even in the ball park after Jones takes off his wig.
As the film goes through the ups and downs of ending slavery and the Union victory during the Civil War, you see Lincoln's genius as mastery of the political system. Not letting many know that the peacemakers were in town knowing that if there was peace then there would be no 13th Amendment. Lincoln sells the country in believing that if slavery ends, then so does the war. Without the war, it seems our president might have had a hard time getting it passed.
That theory is tested when two people come to the White House and are asked if they would support the amendment if the war is over. The two use colorful language when referring to black people. You'll just have to watch the movie to see how they speak of people like me. There's also an action packed moment through the sheer force of words when the notion becomes ever present: free the four million negros and then they may want to vote.
Heck, then women may want the right to vote, echoes one of the characters in the movie. The tense moment as the votes were being counted was as thrilling as the chads being counted in Florida. You didn't have to imagine because it had that same feel to it, waiting and wondering how it's going to turn out, even though you already knew the answer. It felt like, at first, the measure would fail and then they would count again. You thought that, or at least I did, because Spielberg is brilliant in capturing your attention.
But the ending of the film has another Nolan-type moment that even I didn't see coming. Spielberg looked at Lincoln's death from a different point of view. It was touching, sad and may even bring a tear to your eye.
So, when you go, you might want to bring a pillow -- for comfort or in case the non-history buffs doze off.
Nonetheless, the movie took in a respectable third place
at the box office this weekend with $21 million in ticket sales. "Lincoln" will give you pride, and by the end, you'll feel so proud to be an American "with malice towards none."
"Lincoln" has truly earned my four stars. If you're looking for something to see this Thanksgiving, I would say give it a go. If you fall asleep, at least your assured one thing: you already know the ending.