Skip to comments.Spielberg’s Lincoln is a Grand Tribute to a Masterful Leader
Posted on 11/16/2012 7:29:27 AM PST by Kaslin
Steven Spielbergs Lincoln is a different film than one would expect from the brilliant filmmaker responsible for unforgettable films like Schindlers List and Saving Private Ryan. Unlike those two features, Lincoln takes place on a much smaller scale.
When its trailer arrived in theaters several months ago, many viewers undoubtedly believed that the film would attempt to tell Abraham Lincolns complete story, focusing on a young Illinois lawyer who became president and saved the Union from self-destruction. But this movie isnt about that, nor is it simply a noble and simplistic tribute to the 16th President. The film is, instead, a well-told story about a good man who cajoled, manipulated and bravely fought to end slavery through the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. p>
Despite the fact that the North was winning the Civil War when the amendment was passionately debated in Congress a few months after Lincoln's reelection, its passage was far from assured. To pass it, the president and his team of former rivals would have to overcome naysayers, pacifists and Democrats alike who were willing to do whatever was necessary to prevent it from becoming law.
The film begins with a brief battle sequence that shows the noble president watching as soldiers prepare for engagement. In the midst of the fighting, young men- who may lose their lives in a matter of momentslook lovingly at the quiet figure who sits above them. Like fans approaching their idol, they quote back to Lincoln portions of the Gettysburg Address and stand in quiet wonder at a man who they recognize is forever changing the course of their country.
As the film continues, it focuses less on the battlefield of war and more on the political landscape where the fight to pass the amendment is taking place. Instead of the grim details of war, Spielberg puts the camera in the dark halls of Congress where threats, manipulations and lies are all used to get legislators to say yes.
As the inevitable victory of the North over the South approaches, some legislators and members of Lincolns administration- including Secretary of State and one-time political rival William Steward (David Strathairn)argue fervently that ending the war quickly should be their highest priority. Ending slavery, they state, is a secondary concern. Others, including the powerful Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) are more focused on punishing the South after the war than anything else.
Lincoln rejects both ideas. He rejects the idea that ending the war at the cost of enduring more years of slavery is necessary and he disputes the notion that punishing the South after the war has ended is a noble goal. He is a man who yearns for peace but who is unwilling to compromise his values to achieve it.
Throughout the movie, Lincoln is depicted as something we dont often view him as: a politician. Like a great politician, he is able to tell a grand story to a group of people with each believing that the story was intended for them. But unlike many politicians, Lincoln wasat considerable risk to both his political fortunes and his legacy willing to fight for an unpopular position simply because above everything else, he knew it was right.
Many will likely dislike how Spielberg has settled his story around something as seemingly simple as the passage of an amendment. But in deciding to tell the story on a small scale, the director has brought attention to Lincoln the man-- rather than Lincoln the legend-- and made this great leader into a relatable figure who achieved greatness by never backing down from the principle that all men should be free.
Does the film ever mention that Lincoln was a Republican?
It’s amazing. I was at a pretty large wedding several years ago, and after dinner the DJ ran a trivia contest. One question was “Who was the first Republican president.” I was the only one of the guests who knew the answer.
hmmm....this must be what “they” refer to as “dumbing-down” “the folks”.....
Going by what we can hear from the movie previews, I think they might be the first film makers to accurately portray Lincoln’s voice. By all of the accounts that I’ve read, Lincoln had a higher pitched voice. Most all of the documentaries, TV shows, and movies I’ve seen have Lincoln with a deep ‘grandfatherly’ voice, which is actually quite the opposite.
I also don’t like how he has always been portrayed as being some sort of saintly figure, while he was a tyrant, IMHO. However, as we all know, the victors(and liberals) write the history of events.
You can’t pay me to watch this. They’ll spin their revisionist message in there somehow. Not one thin dime for Hollywood.
It was screened at the White Crib. Biden was surprised that Lincoln was shot at the end.
I noticed that from the trailer - Lincoln’s voice was higher which was true to definition. I got a laugh out of a critic who complained about it in a review. They always think they are so smart and elitist educated, yet they don’t know half.
The thing is, how accurate is the rest of the film? I’ve heard plenty that Lincoln was not so keen on freeing the slaves - he didn’t do it in the north, and at one point wanted to send them all back to Africa. His focus was to save the Union, not free the slaves.
My family will never pay for any Spielberg-Tom Hanks product;
They make movies about feats of courage and bravery—Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific—then turn around and donate the maximum to Obama’s campaign, who is on a jihad to destroy the United States and its military
Lincoln’s unwillingness to compromise on principles likely led to more deaths of prisoners of war, on both sides; after he quit agreeing to anymore exchanges of prisoners as long as the Confederate government continued to insist on separate and unequal terms for black prisoners.
During that period conditions at the notorious Andersonville prison camp in Georgia continued to deteriorate - while northern ministers pleaded with Lincoln to agree with the south’s terms on prisoner exchanges - and it was during that time that an uncle of my mom’s grandfather died - from starvation followed by suicide - at Andersonville.
Conditions at prisoner of war camps were horrible, on both sides of the war. Disease and illness was rampant in the northern camps and food was scarce in the south. Andersonville just happened to be one of the worst, in part because of its very large size. And as much as the suffering moved Lincoln personally, he would not agree to separate terms for black prisoners. He argued that doing so made a mockery of the war effort itself.
It was as unpopular of a decision in the north as it was in the south. I think Lincoln carried within himself his own suffering for some decisions he felt he had to make, unpopular as they sometimes were, and knowing they did not relieve suffering he knew would continue. It is the suffering Lincoln that I see in the late photos of him.
There is one major point that many are missing.
Even after a civil war, the President, the congress nor the Supreme Court could end slavery in this nation. It took a constitutional amendment to do that.
How things have changed. Now all three branches of government go willy nilly making fundamental changes in our society, many illegal, many against the will of the people and many unconstitutional.
We are now at the point where our constitutional means whatever those in power says it means.
The last defense of our freedom from a powerful government was the Supreme Court to keep the other two branches in line.
We no longer have that protection. The importance of the last election was about who would be nominated to the next seat on the supreme court. That selection will most likely be made by Obama and get rubber stamped by the Democrat controlled Senate.
All is not lost. There is one last thing that can be done. The states must begin writing constitutional amendments to get the federal government back under control.
One of the first I would suggest would be to return the choice for Senators back to the states.
The second things would be to limit the commerce clause to what the founders intended, a way to control trade between states not as a hammer to beat the citizens into submission.
The third would be to limit a President to engage in military action without a full declaration of war. Allow 30 days if this nation is attacked but no longer without a declaration of war.
The fourth would be to restrict the payment of public money. Welfare should not be a federal government’s responsibility.
Fifth, raise voting age back to 21. Face it, 18 year old do not have the maturity to make some decisions. And don’t give me the old “if they are old enough to fight for the country they are old enough to vote” crap. As an 18 year infantryman in Viet Nam I still was not allowed to vote until I was 21 -
I can think of a few more. But these are just a start.
Is this what the writer (and Speilberg) is saying?
“But unlike many politicians, OBAMA was at considerable risk to both his political fortunes and his legacy, willing to fight for the unpopular position on AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE simply because, above everything else, he knew it was right.”
“But in deciding to tell the story on a small scale, the director has brought attention to OBAMA the man - rather than OBAMA the legend - and made this great leader into a relatable figure who achieved greatness by never backing down from the principle that all men should have HEALTH INSURANCE.
Everything out of Hollywood should be considered suspect. I’ll never feed the beast again.
Require that all Federal budgets be balanced, except in time of war or other national emergency.
IMHO Lincoln is vastly over rated.
I do not see him as a “great” president.
He presided over the deaths of 625,000 Americans who killed each other in the 18611865 war (Civil War, War of Northern Aggression - take your pick). Not to mention the more than 300,000 wounded.
A great president would have found a less bloody way to resolve the conflict.
At the very least, a great president would have reigned in the northern forces when the ultimate outcome became clear.
But Lincoln allowed his generals to pursue a scorched earth policy out of pure vengeance and vindictiveness. They needlessly terrorized and plundered the civilian population of the south.
Even after 150 years, the rancor. distrust, and resentment resulting from his poor judgement, weak leadership and these destructive actions plague the nation to this day,
You've mistaken a "peg", a "McGuffin", for a real reason.
Very wilful people intent on getting their way always throw out a plausible reason -- a peg -- for their obduracy, to fob off objectors and reasonable people who recognize unreasonableness when they see it. That's what Lincoln did with everything, and FDR and Lyndon Johnson after him.
Lincoln refused to continue prisoner exchanges because he knew that the net military advantage would accrue to the North despite the grisly experiences awaiting prisoners as they piled up in the camps. He was determined to hang on to every Southern prisoner and prevent Southerners' return to service. That was the only reason for his decision, and its consequences.
I agree with every thing you said. There was and is no excuse to allow the generals reek havoc on an already defeated South. They raped and pillaged and caused mass destruction on a helpless people.
I was sent tickets to a free screening of this movie and and I could not give them away. Libs love Lincoln because he asserted federal power and used the his power to keep people in line.
“But unlike many politicians, [OBAMA] was at considerable risk to both his political fortunes and his legacy, willing to fight for the unpopular position on [AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE] simply because, above everything else, he knew it was right.”
That about gets it -- not having seen the film yet, I would guess it's a paean to "strong leadership" (as opposed to Constitutional leadership, which is "weak"). How "rising above" scruples, principles, and anything else is sometimes "necessary" ..... as when making an omelette, as Stalin once pointed out.
Fortunately for Spielberg, Obama has been compared -- and has compared himself, helpfully -- to Lincoln often enough already, that people will "get it".
A good political movie, like a good crisis, ought never to go to waste.
I wonder if they actually intended this film for release during the election campaign, but fell behind schedule.
Consider Lincoln’s high pitched voice. Then consider the rather ugly, scraggly bearded, bad skinned, really tall, skinny politician.
NOW, consider A. Lincoln (R) in front of TV cameras during a presidential debate. Could a man who sounded like that and also looked like that win ANYTHING today with today’s American electorate and media? No way, no how.
Chris (you know) would be hospitalized in an attempt to put a stop to his uncontrollable laughing at the (R).
I walked by the television (I don’t watch, my wife does) last night, and saw some clips from the movie, and they had this woman talking and offering commentary. I had seen her somewhere before, and then it occurred to me:
It was Doris Kearns-Goodwin.
I know I shouldn’t be, but I was shocked, and blurted out to my unappreciative wife in a loud voice: “I think that is Doris Kearns-Goodwin! What is that old plagarizing hag doing on national television offering commentary on anything?”
But, with even more anger, I remembered that if you are a liberal, that revolving door for soldierly liberals is always open, because they know the vast majority of idiots who watch their programming will forget a murder by a liberal a minute after it happens.
Just a plagarizing historian on national television offering her commentary. No harm, no foul.
Didn't she also bang the married LBJ back in the day?
Lewinski plagiarized Doris.
There are reports elsewhere that the book the movie is based on is not telling the truth. There are no historical records showing Lincoln spent those months shown in the film pushing through what became the 13th Amendment (Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865). He and Grant were busy fighting the war. The Republican abolitionists got the amendment moving after Lincoln’s death as one the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted after the American Civil War.
The movie is a feel good story, but just that a story.
One word: Mindbleach.
A better question would be to ask people who Lincoln was. I’ll bet you a sizable percentage of Americans, mostly Dems, wouldn’t know who he was. My brother knew an adult employee who didn’t know who Lincoln was. The man was born and raised in the U.S.
Thanks for the first good laugh I've had all day. Ever consider a career in comedy?
Yeah, too bad we still don't have slavery. Because that was such a noble concept.
Well, I guess a whole new generation knows who Lincoln is now that this movie is out.
I’m sure anyone in the South that had their city burned to the ground, or their house ransacked/crops stolen would find your sentiments ‘comical’.
“They needlessly terrorized and plundered the civilian population of the south.”
I prefer to agree with General Sherman: War is cruelty, and you cannot redefine it.
Further I would rather err on the side of caution. In the case of this cruelty advocated primarily by Sherman, and accepted by Grant, then Lincoln himself, the purpose was logical. And that was to make the south, for several generations at least, to never try again for secession. And I argue that Sherman was right.
Let’s just contrast Sherman’s idea of warfare with limited wars we have had since WW2. None of them really worked out well. Yet the last foes we vanquished in WW2, are all thriving democratic governments who have abandoned their aggressive ways. 3 for 3, right there in WW2. At the very least you should acknowledge that the strategy was done for reasons other than revenge.
And I’m guessing the millions of black Americans who after the war no longer had a some peson telling them that they were owned wouldn’t find it comical.
I was not speaking of slavery and you know it.
Don't set up a straw horse and then bravely knock it down.
If you want to debate at that level you belong at D.U.
....And what did Lincoln do for THEM after the war? Little to nothing......
The historical record makes it clear that there was extreme hate and disdain for southerners motivating many of the nothern commanders and forces, especially in the waning days of the war.
Sherman's final destructive march cannot be explained away as a military necessity. There was almost a religious fervor to drive the south to its knees - to grind what was left into ashes and dust. The burning amd sacking of broken, destitute cities full of starving, war weary civilians is a black mark on America's soul.
Since you bring up WWII, I point out that postwar, the USA government was kinder, by far, to the defeated Japanese and Germans than to their fellow Americans in the southern states of their own country at the end of the Civil War.
I wonder if it shows The Noble President working to deport all of America’s blacks to Central America, the Caribbean and Africa once he had freed them?
or is that non-modern part of Saint Abe too inconvenient to be allowed to intrude upon the modern myth?
“His focus was to save the Union, not free the slaves”
Anyone who doubts this needs to read Frederick Douglass’ speech at the 10 year memorial of Lincoln’s death. While he was grateful that Lincoln ended slavery he had no illusions about why Lincoln had done it.
Preserving the Union was the overriding issue to Lincoln and this gets lost in the modern preoccupation with race and slavery. You need only to read Lincoln’s own letter to Horace Greeley:
Washington, August 22, 1862.
Hon. Horace Greeley:
I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.
Yes but it seems to be human nature to deify leaders who preside over immensely destructive wars as long as they win.
All you need to do is look at the Marble Temples to various Caesars, similar to the temple located opposite The Custis-Lee House at the far end of the Memorial Bridge...
Of course Sherman thought war against fellow Americans should be cruel. Sherman was widely considered to be a madman even by his own allies.
One of his directives was to have civilians taken hostage and shot in regions where snipers were active. After WWII this same behavior got German officers executed for committing war crimes.
Should the North have lost the war and Sherman have been captured, he would have been absolved of war crimes by reason of insanity.
+1. I think Lincoln sucked.
Yeah, why weren’t you speaking of slavery? That’s a curious fact about the causes of the war that people like you conveniently ignore or gloss over. The south instigated the war. Not Lincoln. It did it to try to keep slavery. No slavery, no war.
In all sincerity, I can see you need professional help.
Yeah right, why argue facts when you can call names? Have a nice day.
Absolutely spot on.
“He presided over the deaths of 625,000 Americans who killed each other in the 18611865 war (Civil War, War of Northern Aggression - take your pick). Not to mention the more than 300,000 wounded.
A great president would have found a less bloody way to resolve the conflict.”
As a southerner, I totally agree. A great President would have avoided bloodshed and brought the nation back together. I can think of a number of ways to have done that.
“It did it to try to keep slavery. No slavery, no war.”
Sad that you went to public schools and got brainwashed into thinking so shallow.
What name do you think I called you?
I just reread my comments on this thread and don't see where I called anyone names.
Sorry, I went to parochial schools for twelve years. Have a nice day sir.
Ofc there was a fervent desire to punish the south by many in the North. However, the powers that be in the case of Sherman’s March to the Sea (Lincoln, Grant and Sherman) were not in that group. Lincoln, as you should be aware, was busy talking about ways to bring the country back together after the war. And that did not include anything that resembled reconstruction. After the fall of Richmond, when a jubilant crowd came up to the white house for a speech, Lincoln underwhelmed the crowd with his vision for reconciliation and not vengeance.
Sherman used to live and teach and in the south. He didn’t hate them. And his plan was made out of the recognition that the civilians enabled the war. You can’t have men fighting without them being armed, clothed and fed.
Grant, to my knowledge showed no such desire for vengeance. In fact, a quote of his during the Mexican-American war, was that he didn’t want war, but if fighting was to break out, that he hoped it would end as quickly as possible and both sides go back to being friends again. During the civil war, I believe his actions, especially the final surrender terms for the Army of Northern Virginia, showed that his attitude about being friends again, didn’t change.
Was it necessary to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Was it necessary to firebomb Tokyo and Dresden? People will no doubt be arguing such things for generations to come. And so it will be with Civil War. I merely stated that imo, revenge was not the reason it was done.
There was sniping being done on shipping once Vicksburg had fallen and the Union started to use the Mississippi again. Some Confederates decided to deny the north unfettered access to the river and attacked shipping. But they did so secretly. They were using guerilla war tactics. The response was swift. The Union showed up to the nearest town, rounded up 10 able bodied, war aged men at random. And then executed them for the attacks. iirc, the attacks stopped.
General Butler also ordered that hostile women in New Orleans, be treated as prostitutes if they disrespected union forces. At the time, those women were openly defiant and would even go so far as to empty their chamber pots on union soldiers walking the streets below them. For this “atrocity” the South put a bounty on the “beast”, Gen. Butler. I guess this was a pretty severe way to treat women in that day and age, judging by the south’s response. Again, the effect was that the women stopped being openly disrespectful and hostile towards the Union.
FYI, the Wolverines in Germany who were resisting occupation in 1946 that you refer to, also stopped their activity when German men were rounded up at random and executed for attacks against Americans.
You can be mad about such tactics, but in all three cases above, the Union/America achieved its goals with such use of force. As for the German officers being executed for similar acts, I can only say we had a double standard. I guess that is a luxury you have when you are the victor.