"Lincoln" isn't really about Lincoln @ 5 April 2013 08:03 PM


Steven Spielberg's superspectacular Lincoln looks great on Blu-ray, and actually works well within the intimacy of the home screen. With all its battle scenes and meticulous costuming and art direction, ultimately it's a people story brimming with characters and human conflicts. The trademark Spielberg back-lighting and other touches are very much in evidence, but the director does not take center stage and allows his cast to shine.

And shine they do. I can't add anything to the praise earned by Daniel Day-Lewis, who redefined Lincoln to millions who either remember early depictions by Henry Fonda or Raymond Massey, TV miniseries with actors like Hal Holbrook (who appears in this film as well) and perhaps most significantly, Royal Dano's voice and the Audio-Animatronics version at Disney Parks on both coasts -- a characterization that has been in the mass mindset since the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Lots has been said about Lincoln's voice, but I had no problem with that. He also comes off as a little bit of an eccentric, whose numerous stories and long jokes cause sighs and eye rolls among his staff and associates. In Literature 101 terms, he would be called the "Christ-like figure," speaking in parables to make his points and even dying at the end (hope that's not a spoiler!)

Sally Field, because she simply cannot be unlikable, brings that quality to Mary Todd Lincoln. She's never a villain or a harpy. She doesn't quite disappear into her role as Day-Lewis does -- for Pete's sake, it's Sally Field, whom we've loved for over four decades! Perhaps for that reason, and some powerful acting, few could create the Mary that she does. The argument scene between husband and wife is electrifying.

Why did I say this movie isn't about Lincoln? Because I believe it's more about the people few of us know about. From the African-American soldiers to those three frazzled men who risk wrath and even shooting to get support for the Amendment. Tommy Lee Jones' character isn't legendary, yet he spent his life trying to abolish slavery. And the remarkable David Strathairn -- perhaps Hollywood's most underrated actor -- is a standout as Secretary of State Seward. Everyone, regardless of their walk of life, can share the accomplishment. Lincoln of course, is the ultimate in leadership, but it's nice to see the little guys and ladies get their spotlight, too.

There is no commentary. Like War Horse, Spielberg offers his comments in bonus documentaries. Unlike the War Horse home release, the docs are shorter, but certainly fascinating and worth watching. The DVD only contains one short bonus feature; the two-disc Blu-ray contains more material.

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