About 5 years ago I was in a bar on a nuclear powered icebreaker talking to a filmmaker who I had just met. We were in the middle of the Arctic ocean seeking a topic for casual conversation, as strangers do. Daniel Day-Lewis’ name came up. That was the year of There Will be Blood. When asked if I had seen it, I said no. The filmmaker, surprised, asked why, commenting that D D-L’s performance was outstanding. I explained that based on the reviews the film appeared to be a one-trick pony. I don’t like films with only one good thing about them. I still haven’t seen it, nor had I seen any subsequent film with Day-Lewis, until yesterday.
The Nonagenarian asked to be taken to see Lincoln. I acquiesced with unbridled ennui. The situation only got worse. I played the wrong music in the car. She hated her meal choice at the restaurant. She had to queue before entering the cinema. By the time we were in our seats, I was prepared for a failure of epic proportions.
Did I mention she hates going to the movies? That she asked to be taken was an event as momentous as the confirmation of the Royal baby.
Opening scene: a muddy, bloody Civil War battlefield. Cliche…and the stuff of nightmares. Then, the scene changed…and the magic that is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln began. The extraneous faded. I was in a railroad station in the winter if 1865. I was an eyewitness to history, suspending disbelief. Until that moment when the cffinely crafted political argument disguised as dialogue was exposed.
From that moment I was a foreigner appalled that the machinations of American politics had not changed in the intervening 150 years. The political agenda of the carefully crafted script appeared to me to be a call to action. “We’re not going to take it anymore.” Lincoln is a political expose with a foundation of honest intent, and two outstanding performances – Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones.
The Nonagenarian- my family’s intellectual compass – thought the effort of going to the theatre to see the film was worthwhile. That is extraordinary praise for a film that in the end left me cold.