Friday, March 1, 2013

Film Review: Lincoln (Steven Spielberg) 2012


I am a political junkie.  I am fascinated with the romantic Machiavellian machinations of inner government, and nowhere is this more idealised than in Washington.  There is a whole subset of the culture industry that survives by decrying the absurdity, hypocrisy and corruption of the city on the hill.  From the Twilight zone, to The X-Files, to Homeland – television has been in on it.  Hollywood has a whole genre (political thriller) dedicated to the one-man-against-the-machine narrative – and it sells.

In a time of intense backlash against the government, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln seems like the film that can appeal to both political teams and give them both hope: the social-justice loving Democrats, and the industrious Lincoln-loving Republicans.  Obviously ‘Honest Abe’ Lincoln was a Republican so rightwingers are going to love him.  Plus, the film is abolitionist so modern-day Democrats will love the racial egalitarianism they feel that the contemporary Repubs have lost ground on.

The story of Lincoln is set in the final years of the civil war where a truce is becoming possible between the north and the south, however Abraham himself (the extraordinary Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to essentially create peace on his terms, and first pass an amendment to the constitution that will abolish slavery.  The main focus of the story (in my opinion) revolves around whether it is ethical to enact a law under a false pretense (prolonging the peace negotiations) if it has a morally superior outcome (the federal abolition of slavery).  The cynical amongst us could draw a parallel between this and Obama’s wars…

As I said, I am a political junkie.  I tirelessly negotiate American news sources/novels and (obviously) films to try and gain an insight into their impenetrable legislative and judiciary systems.  I  love it...  So why then did Lincoln not grip me…?  Firstly, I think that it is because of the lack of African-Americans in the picture itself.  It was mostly white men talking about black men.  No interaction or drama.  I’m not asking for a race riot, just a little bit of representation.  Plus, as anyone with an interest in literary history will know, this is a pretty dramatic revision of history in regards to Lincoln’s personal views on slavery – although I am the first to admit that I know little on the subject…  Someone please feel free to enlighten me…?

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