MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By DreamWorks Pictures
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field.
There is probably no better time than this year to remind ourselves about how politics, informed by passion and conviction, can be used for the greater good. Steven Spielberg’s wonderful Lincoln (with a brilliant screenplay by Tony Kushner) focuses on the last year’s of Lincoln’s life, when the War Between the States was beginning to wind down. Lincoln is seen visiting troops and writing letters to families grieving the loss of sons in battle. But he is determined to see slavery come to an end. The Emancipation Proclamation causes little stir; there is need for a 13th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. But there is also the chance that this very issue may prolong a deadly war. How do you accomplish the seemingly impossible?
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book “Team of Rivals” (on which this film is based) demonstrated Lincoln’s desire to put values ahead of personalities as he filled his Cabinet with those who originally opposed his election. As we watch Lincoln and the supporters of the amendment work for its passage, we see William Seward (David Straithairn), secretary of state, trade favors for potential votes. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, uses oratory and respect to make the case. And Lincoln himself, seasoned country lawyer, knows how to work a jury. This is all exciting stuff to watch onscreen, which reminded me of the passion that was also behind William Wilberforce’s campaign to outlaw slavery in Great Britain, wonderfully told in 2006’s Amazing Grace.
But Lincoln also excels in helping us to see Abraham Lincoln as a humble, kind, and often dryly humorous man, played to perfection by Daniel Day-Lewis. This is a character that you not only admire, but one you fall in love with. His love for his family is sure, from his doting of young son Tad (Gulliver McGrath), his confrontations with Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who wants to fight in the war, and his love for Mary Todd (Field), who still carries the pain of the recent loss of a son from illness. The family scenes occur throughout the film and are a lovely touch.
Abraham Lincoln was a man who encountered much failure and many setbacks during the first part of his life. When he became President, he was determined to use his power and influence to make a difference, but he was wise enough to know that he needed to build a team of partners to help him accomplish that goal. As Christians, how are we using our gifts at this time to speak out for the oppressed and those in need of a voice? We could learn a lot from Honest Abe.
Five halos: An entertaining and often moving story of a towering figure in politics with Christian values.
One pitchfork: For brief scenes of war violence and occasional salty talk, including a couple of historical detonations of the “F bomb”.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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