For all the success of comic book heroes and vampire love stories on the big screen, it may seem a curious move by one of film’s most acclaimed directors—Steven Spielberg—to tackle what at first blush may be a subject best left to history buffs.
But a star-studded cast, some critics have claimed, has breathed new life into the political maneuverings and leadership of Abraham Lincoln, making it a must-see for those history buffs and anyone in need of a civics lesson.
And forget the post-election hangover you may be feeling. After finally getting out from under the inundation of political ads and rhetoric, a film about the highest office in the land may be the last thing you want to see.
Before you judge the movie solely by its cover—or title—check out Time’s Nov. 5 issue or Smithsonian magazine’s November issue. Both preview the film in such a way that highlight how pivotal Lincoln’s leadership was at one of the most crucial moments in the nation’s history.
According to multiple biographical accounts, Lincoln was a man rife with contradiction, as likely to be praised as a champion of equality as he was to be denounced as a racist. He was said to be tyrannical, yet tender-hearted.
Then again, for someone who was described by a close colleague as the “most reticent and mostly secretive man that ever existed,” he was bound to be misunderstood.
“Lincoln,” the Spielberg-directed biopic that opens everywhere on Nov. 16, attempts to help address that. By examining the last four months of the 16th president’s life, the film centers on the passage of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery.
At that time, it was a radical, polarizing issue, yet Lincoln thoughtfully and deftly managed to get it passed. One of Time’s articles on the film tried to draw parallels to present-day presidential hopefuls (the piece was printed before the election) and what they could learn from Lincoln.
As might be expected, Time gave insight into some of the biographical highlights of Lincoln and what is portrayed in the film. It provides a fascinating look at Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrays Lincoln, and his in-depth approach and study of the characters he’s played. (In fact, Spielberg went so far as to address Day-Lewis as “Mr. President” on set.)
Smithsonian magazine examined the historical accuracy of the latest Lincoln film, as well as a recap of the others that have made it to the big screen (and one television adaptation). Of note is a side-by-side portrait of Lincoln, the basis for the iconic silhouette, and Day-Lewis, who bears an uncanny resemblance to him.
“Lincoln” is rated PG-13 for violence and strong language. It is based in part on the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.