Spielberg continues journey to the top with ‘Lincoln’

To say that Steven Spielberg has established himself as one of the premiere film directors is an understatement. The filmmaker behind “Jaws,” “Indiana Jones” and “Jurassic Park” has a secure place in the audience’s conscious.

He could have stopped with his big-budget films and continued to make immersive “popcorn” pictures. Luckily for audiences, Spielberg’s drive has kept him not only at the top of people’s must-see blockbusters list, but also the potential Oscar nominees list. His journey to the top is best witnessed in his films “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan” and most recently “Lincoln.”

“Lincoln” — with 12 Oscar nominations — is no less thrilling and entertaining than any of his aforementioned films and will have audiences asking questions weeks after it takes a bow. That is the power of a Spielberg film. He creates an environment so complete and nearly tangible that afterward audiences still want more.

Admittedly, “Lincoln” won’t be for everyone. In absence of the action Spielberg is known for are scenes filled with flawless dialogue that will call back to issues still present in our nation today. “Lincoln” requires a patient viewer in the same way last year’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” did, but what it lacks in dinosaurs, fast-paced action, and aliens it makes up for with outstanding acting, a mesmerizing screenplay, and a surprising bit of comedy.

The actor on most critics’ lips has been the king of method acting, Daniel Day-Lewis, but the standout performer in “Lincoln” is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Jones has been acting for years and has 71 productions to his name after not having taken any acting classes.
Each time when Jones comes on screen it feels fresh. He’s known for being the unbreakable older man, but along with that sternness is heart. Stevens’ character is so interesting that you might ask if the film should be called “Thaddeus Stevens.”

Stevens fights for “the other” in a tale that consistently repeats itself as we encounter new battles for civil rights. With a gruff moniker and stubborn stance for all rights for African-Americans we see a new view of the “rich white man” not often seen in historical films. The way he controls other men with simply a look is powerful, but what’s more powerful is one of the final scenes of the film when Stevens returns home to his wife, an African-American woman.

Day-Lewis is also in top form as the 16th president of the United States. Day-Lewis brings an impenetrable confidence to the screen that is best showcased in scenes of powerful dialogue between the president and his cabinet. These scenes are just as entertaining and palpable as those from another presidential production, “The West Wing.”

Providing a history education while never losing relevance, “Lincoln” succeeds as one of the best films of 2012.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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