I’m not a critic, so you won’t often find here substantive, intelligent movie reviews. I do enjoy cinema, however and occassionally a movie comes along that is more than something to pass time while eating popcorn. Movies like this are conversation starters. “Did you see it? If not, you must!” Movies like this stay with you long after you’ve viewed them. They make you think.
Lincoln, by Stephen Spielberg, is such a movie. I had the chance to see it last week and was profoundly moved.
What’s so interesting about viewing a movie about our 16th President is that we already know so much about him. In a sense, Lincoln is an icon, he’s a caricature, he’s a mythical figure. Towns and streets across the country bear his name. Volumes upon volumes have been written about him. He’s on our currency. His historical greatness is so enshrined in our conciousness that there is virtually no movement anywhere that would not hesitate to attach their cause to him.
And yet, it is something to actually see a human Abraham Lincoln. This is what Spielberg’s movie has given us. Of course there have been many film adaptations of his life and Lincoln impersonators are as easy to find as Elvis ones. And yet nothing has come as close to portraying for us, in the flesh, the real Abraham Lincoln as Daniel Day Lewis’ brilliant role. The cinematography, the dialogue, the music, the poignant scenes make the movie-goer feel as if he is really experiencing the life and times of this great man.
For me, the most powerful message of this movie is the idea of racial reconciliation. It’s hard to believe now, but 150 or so years ago, people in this country were enslaved, considered half-human simply because of the color of their skin. And Lincoln stood against this when it wasn’t popular, when inequality was more passe than equality. Lincoln didn’t come to the anti-slavery position as a matter of political pragmatism. It was a deeply held belief, one that he felt deep in his heart and soul. And he pushed hard to defeat slavery, both with the passage of the 13th Amendment and in defeating the South in the Civil War.
When I watched this movie, I was struck by two things: First, it seems God raises up men of courage for certain times. Lincoln was clearly one of these men. It seems he was put on this earth to both hold together the United States as a country and to liberate generations of people previously enslaved. Of course he didn’t see full civil rights accomplished, but the 13th amendement became the Constitutional basis by which future gains were achieved. And then, his life was taken prematurely. It’s as if he finished his work and then passed from the earth. Historians disagree on the exact nature of his faith–some think he may have become more evangelical in the White House. Others disagree. Regardless, his life is an example for believers in that Lincoln possessed both the courage of his convictions and the moderate temperament to make a difference.
Secondly, the film reminded me just how far America has come in terms of racial reconciliation. There is still much work to do, of course, but consider that 150 years later, we have sitting in the White House an African American president. That’s no small thing and something even those who disagree with the President’s policies should celebrate. Racial reconciliation is as much at the heart of God as any other cultural issue. When the races come together it’s a porthole into Heaven. Revelation 21-22 describes the Kingdom as every race, tribe, and tongue gathering to worship Jesus. Churches should be at the forefront of this work and in their congregations should model in part what the Kingdom will eventually be.
I highly recommend Spielberg’s Lincoln. It’s a beautiful, historic, inspiring movie all Americans should see. And for Christians, a good reminder that God’s people should always be on the side of justice, regardless of the success of our efforts.