Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lincoln (2012) - film review

Public release date 11/17/12, seen by my first available matinee 11/18/12. In attendance, eldest son, recently in the United States Marine Corps. Directed by Stephen Spielberg.

First about Mr. Spielberg. Here, the plane can go down, his spirit to slip to this mortal coil, and upon his tombstone inscribe, Here lies Stephen Spielberg, good and faithful servant to the Muse Of Cinema, master of the art and craft from the beginning, and father of 21st Century Cinema style and substance with his greatest work Lincoln. This film enters the new phase of American filmmaking, possibly the first true work of film, a master craftsman rising above his earlier work to create a masterpiece.

Starring Daniel Day Lewis as the title role, and Ms. Sally Fields as the tormented soul Mary Todd Lincoln.

Yes, Ms. Fields, we still really, really like you please remember that the night your name follows, once again the phrase: "And the Oscar goes to.... " Flawless, brilliant,  Fields has the courage of her miles, showing the heart and soul of a woman in a man's world, a heartbroken mother and possibly quite mad. The First Lady as Lady McBeth, treachery and treason unneeded and unheeded, the torment of her soul is on every frame.

The President is shown as a leader of men and a stalwart captain while the ship of state hurtles about in a bloodied tempest, and it is his scenes as husband and father that are the most captivating. Human is as human does, and human is the Icon. For a film so centered around a single character, he is not shown as often as one might expect (even his murder is done off-screen) but his presence is imprinted on every frame. He is the President, father, husband, man and shrewd politician and he is a man of his times that imprinted his time and the times afterwards. Again: "And the Oscar goes to..."

The screenplay is staggering in its enormity. In the chambers of the House Of Representatives there reside men of power and authority, and they will rise, and they will be heard. Verbal blow after blow is issued, a political Fight Club, but one that must needs be spoken. Notions, ideas, ramifications are bandied out, verbal cudgels, sonic assaults.... but in the most rarefied of all languages, American English. The dialog is exactly what would have been written had a certain Elizabethan Bard been alive and commissioned to write it as one of his histories. And a history it is, fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.

Lincoln said that: Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.

The film allows us that most magnificent of treasures, a story written in lightning and told in light. While there are many, many reminders of other masters, Spielberg reaches to the earliest days of cinema. The film does not necessarily need sound. Everything is there. The sound pulls the language, soaring oratory and barely hidden rage, into a symphony, a rhythm that grows, swells, slips aside and washes away, a flawless conduction of the strange music of America, a series of sharp shocks that build and build.

Tears were shed, yes, they were. Many, from what I could intimate from the sounds around me. The desire, several times, to lurch to one's feet cheering and applauding, made a rare appearance... several times. Sometimes, it was simply a gesture, a moment of some sublime intimacy of the human condition while the madness of war rages, others after an oratory or a defense. Great moments upon great moments do not make a good film, but a great film is loaded with them.

Spielberg may just with to retire. His overall handling of the subject, the story, the orchestration of light and shadow, thunder and cats paw silences...

And the Lifetime Achievement goes to...

Congratulations to all on a finely honed and superb performance.