In the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency, the full measure of the man — his passion and his humanity — came to bear on his defining battle: to plot a forward path for a shattered nation, against overwhelming odds and extreme public and personal pressure.
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ provides an intimate immersion into the American leader’s most perilous and revealing moments, at a time when the dark shadow of slavery lifts and a country torn by war must be made whole.
A rich human drama plays out as Lincoln doubles down to end the devastating Civil War not merely by ending the war, but by fighting to pass the 13th Amendment, permanently abolishing slavery. It will be an act of true national daring. He will have to call upon all the skill, courage and moral fortitude for which he’ll become legend. He will grapple with the impact of his actions on the world and on those he loves. But what lies in the balance is what always mattered most to Lincoln: to compel the American people, and those in his government of opposite persuasions, to alter course and aim higher, toward a greater good for all mankind.
Brought to life via a layered screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, Spielberg’s starkly human storytelling and the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis leading an accomplished cast, the film invites audiences directly into the heart and soul of Lincoln’s final achievements. The Lincoln who emerges is a man of raw paradoxes: funny and solemn, a playful storyteller and fierce power broker, a shrewd commander and a vulnerable father. But in his nation’s darkest hour, when the times demand the very best of people, he reaches from within himself for something powerful and everlasting.
Abraham Lincoln has long existed on the razor’s edge between myth and flesh-and-blood man.
Yet, now more than ever, Lincoln occupies the public imagination. Perhaps it is because his very silhouette has morphed into a global symbol of the hope that power can be wielded judiciously. Perhaps it is because he was the only U.S. president to stare down the real possibility that the grand experiment of an American Union might be forever abolished. Or perhaps it is because his very life reveals that flawed, complicated human beings can accomplish the incredible, and inspire even those ensnared in war and dark legacies to switch directions and come together.
The idea of Lincoln, and the rarely seen but captivatingly human side of Lincoln, has haunted filmmaker Steven Spielberg since childhood. Since then, he has been reading about Lincoln, thinking about Lincoln and becoming increasingly certain that Lincoln’s intensely eventful life is rife with stories that are not only inherently cinematic but are also increasingly relevant to our times.
“I’ve always been interested in telling a story about Lincoln. He’s one of the most compelling figures in all of history and in my life,” says Spielberg. “I can remember being four or five years old when I first saw the Lincoln Memorial and being terribly frightened by the scale of the statue in that chair but then, as I got closer and closer, becoming completely captivated by his visage. I’ll never forget that moment and it left me wondering about that man sitting high above me in that chair.”
The more Spielberg learned about Lincoln throughout his life, the more that sense of wonder grew. He continues: “Lincoln guided our country through its worst moments and allowed the ideals of American democracy to survive and assured the end of slavery. But I also wanted to make a film that would show how multifaceted Lincoln was. He was a statesman, a military leader, but also a father, a husband and a man who was always, continuously looking deep inside himself. I wanted to tell a story about Lincoln that would avoid the mistakes of both cynicism and hero worship and be true to the vastness of who he was and the intimacy of his life and the softer angles of his nature.”
It would take Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner, who previously collaborated on ‘Munich’ together, a decade to find precisely the right story to tell, and the way they wanted to tell it. And when they did, surprisingly, it was a story that homed in on just a few short, powerful months in Lincoln’s life. Those few months would illuminate the essence of the man—as a political genius, as an anguished family man and, most of all, as a courageous defender of the United States of America.
Says Spielberg: “We came to focus on the last four months of Lincoln’s life because what he accomplished in that time was truly monumental. However, we wanted to show that he himself was a man, not a monument. We felt our best hope of doing justice to this immensely complicated person was to depict him in the midst of his most complex fight: to pass the 13th Amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives.”
CAST: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, SALLY FIELD, DAVID STRATHAIRN, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, JAMES SPADER, HAL HOLBROOK, TOMMY LEE JONES
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG
Based on the classic novel by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, this drama is set in the late 19th century against the backdrop of Russian high society. It centres on the title character, demure and elegant socialite Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) who at the age of 18 has been promised to marry senior statesman Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin (Jude Law).
Anna’s new husband is 20 years her senior and although the young woman doesn’t really love her rather dull and unemotional spouse, she soon bears him a son. However, sometime later, whilst at a ball, Anna finds herself attracted to a young, wealthy cavalry officer named Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Vronsky is captivated by Anna’s beauty and grace and it doesn’t take long for the young man to profess his unyielding love and desire to wed this already-married woman.
Anna cannot deny feeling a strong connection to Vronsky, but when her husband finds about the two of them, he threatens to deny Anna access to her young son if she sees him again. Despite yearning to submit to the handsome young Vronsky’s passionate bid for her love, Anna is fearful of disobeying her husband’s conditions whilst also trying to abide by the guidelines put in place by her blueblood upper class society.
CAST: Aaron Taylor-Johnson,Alicia Vikander,Domhnall Gleeson,Emily Watson,Eric MacLennan,Jude Law,Keira Knightley,Kelly Macdonald,Matthew MacFadyen,Olivia Williams,Ruth Wilson
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright