Honest, Abe's vibrant — Spielberg flick brings history alive
Published: November 16, 2012
And yet, despite this, Lincoln remains an emotionally detached experience. The movie doesn't really give us any insight into who the president was as a man, but it does give us a sense of what it might have been like to be around him. Perhaps sensing this, Spielberg insists on inserting some family drama, with Abe's son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) insisting that he be permitted to join the war, and Sally Field's Mary Todd fretting and frothing that she won't lose another child. It's hokey, distracting and dramatically ineffectual stuff and, frankly, unnecessarily cheapens Field's performance and character. How much better would have Lincoln been if Mary Todd were treated as another rival (albeit an emotional one) to be enlisted into Lincoln's cause rather than an underwritten stereotype of history? How much more would we learn of the man, had his wife provided a space where his personal doubts and fears could be expressed?
In the end, Lincoln demonstrates that history is made by ordinary people, and that true leadership is the ability to overcome the drama of the moment in order to fulfill the wisdom of time. Spielberg's film illustrates how both Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress overcame the former in service of the latter.
It is a lesson in duty and compromise that both the American electorate and its elected representatives would do well to learn.
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