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Arts & Entertainment

"Skyfall" (+) - Movie Review by Ed Koch

I wanted to see this film when it first opened but evening weekend performances were always sold out. Fortunately, it opened at a few more theaters, and I was able to see it this past weekend. It is a treat.
 
There is definitely room for many more movies about Abraham Lincoln whom, I think, most historians believe was our greatest president. This picture covers a brief period: his second term beginning with his Second Inaugural Address delivered about one month before the end of the Civil War and his assassination.
 
The theme, constantly discussed by Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his Secretary of State, William Seward (David Strathairn), is the passing of the 13th Amendment which would free the slaves throughout the Union. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the southern states participating in the Civil War.
 
This script makes it clear that Lincoln concluded the Civil War was being fought primarily on the issue of slavery. I recall that early on in the war Lincoln made it clear that preservation of the Union was paramount for him. Ultimately the issue of conscience prevailed, and he recognized that ending slavery was the most important issue.
 
It is subtly raised in the film that in order to get the 13th Amendment passed, Lincoln not only needed the support of his own party but two votes from the Democrats: an amendment requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Many members of the House were willing to emancipate the slaves if the war dragged on. If the Confederates were contemplating suing for peace, as some had heard, they would not in some cases willingly end slavery.
 
Lincoln was asked to advise whether or not peace negotiations were taking place. His answer was not truthful but was technically correct and accomplished his goal of getting the 13th Amendment passed.
If I had any criticism of the picture, it would be that it did not include a few meetings with Frederick Douglass, the great black emancipator who undoubtedly convinced Lincoln to end slavery.
 
The film was directed by Steven Spielberg. Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." He did a magnificent job.
 
Daniel Day-Lewis does a marvelous job of portraying Lincoln the man and the president. Sally Field plays Mary Todd Lincoln and conveys her fragility. Tommy Lee Jones portrays the Republican Party abolitionist, Thaddeus Stevens, with great distinction including his wig. Stevens's enormous involvement was probably caused in part by a surprising disclosure which I will not reveal in this review.
 
All other cast members added to the gravity of the movie. They include Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Lincoln), Gulliver McGrath (Tad Lincoln), James Spader (W.N. Bilbo), Hal Holbrook (Preston Blair), Tim Blake Nelson (Richard Schell), John Hawkes (Robert Latham), Stephen Henderson (William Slade) and Gloria Reuben (Elizabeth Keckley).
 

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