Lincoln Penny

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” – Genesis 22.9-11

We carry him around in our pockets every day, and yet we still wonder who he was. Wonder and awe were both evoked by Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”. I urge you to run, not walk, to go see this movie. It is just that good. Anne, Joanie and I saw it in a sold-out performance on Saturday night at the Chase. At the heart of this movie is Daniel Day-Lewis’ extraordinary portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

The crux of this movie is the legislative struggle to pass the 13th Amendment, the abolishment of slavery. The Civil War is still ongoing. Its ending is a foregone conclusion, yet thousands continue to die. Lincoln is left to make a Solomon-like decision, free the slaves, absolutely, or sue for an early peace and a less perfect union.

It has been said that diners should never see the kitchens of great restaurants. Likewise, patients should never view the basements of hospitals. Finally, the voting public should never witness the making of laws. This movie splays the sausage making wide. Lincoln’s henchmen were prohibited from using the newly minted half-dollar coins with his likeness on them, for bribes.

Employing all his wiles and through sheer force of will, he ramrods this legislation through Congress. Like his namesake Abraham, Lincoln was willing to sacrifice all for an ideal and very nearly did. “I am the president of the United States of America, cloaked in immense power. Go and get me those votes!”

Rare is the movie that so deftly captures its subject and so aptly captivates the audience. Critics have criticized, because that’s what they do, the bookending of this movie with the recitation of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. They complain that their invocation was too heavy-handed. I thought that the Gettysburg Address was cleverly handled. The Second Inaugural Address serves as epilogue, replacing the man upon his pedestal.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

History has taught us of Lincoln the myth. This movie shows us Lincoln the man. We see him in his family life. We see him at his work. We see him feeling lighthearted and also dour. We see him as we have not seen him before. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the movie?