Lincoln: By the People, For the People

by Ethan Alter November 9, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Lincoln</i>: By the People, For the People

There are many different ways to approach a man who lived as monumental a life as Abraham Lincoln. You could, for instance, focus entirely on his early years as a lawyer as John Ford did in the 1939 classic, Young Mr. Lincoln. Or you could zero in on the Civil War, with Lincoln's life taking a backseat to the fighting. Or you could even turn him into a vampire hunter, using the supernatural as a metaphor for Lincoln's desire to see every individual freed from the bonds of slavery, be they property of plantation owners or bloodsuckers. In the case of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's oh-so-prestigious entry in the awards season sweepstakes, the director telescopes his subject's life into roughly a single month: January 1865, when a newly re-elected Lincoln used his ferocious will and political capital to ensure the passage of the 13th Amendment, which officially outlawed slavery in the United States. That's right, in a way this is a live-action, feature-length version of that old Schoolhouse Rock ditty "I'm Just a Bill" (or it's even better Simpsons parody "Amendment to Be") where viewers are invited to watch the long, contentious and often ugly process of how the proverbial political sausage gets made in Washington.

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