Lucas Craig Cinematic Analysis Part A: Summary

The movie I chose to watch was Lincoln. Throughout the film, Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis, attempts to achieve the impossible; pass the thirteenth amendment and effectively abolish slavery while simultaneously ending the American Civil War. To do so, Lincoln faces opposition from both his political rivals and from those within his own cabinet. The film’s theme is that sometimes one must sacrifice one’s own morals to achieve an end goal for the greater good. The film introduces the viewing audience to Abraham Lincoln as a compassionate leader advocating for racial equality by showing him standing in the rain surrounded by African American Union troops after a bloody battle in the mud between the Union and Confederate soldiers. Lincoln is talking to the troops without any prejudice about topics ranging from his recent reelection to African American rights. The introduction successfully establishes both the setting for the film and Lincoln’s overall attitude throughout the film as the hardships of racial inequality and Lincoln’s compassion, wisdom and avocation for equality are both present in this scene. Lincoln is a very complicated film with many layered conflicts for Lincoln; both personal and political. The first conflict in the movie is found in a conversation between Lincoln and radical republican Preston Blair, (father of Montgomery Blair,) and is expanded upon in a heated debate scene between Lincoln and his cabinet members. Here, we discover Lincoln’s true genius as a politician. He knows that there are not enough members of the House of Representatives that support the thirteenth amendment purely for the purpose of abolishing slavery to pass it. He also realizes that the Confederacy is weary of fighting and that the Union will inevitably win the war, and when they do, the thirteenth amendment will never be passed because the Southern States that rejoin the Union won’t support it. This is where Lincoln’s actions first exemplify the film’s theme of sacrificing one’s morals to achieve an end goal. He decides to keep the war going for as long as possible in an attempt to ratify the

Lucas Craig thirteenth amendment before the war’s end and sell the thirteenth amendment as the only way to the end the war, rather than strictly to end slavery. Doing this will cause the deaths of many more soldiers and weaken both the Northern and Southern economies even further; however, Lincoln justifies his actions because he believes that ending slavery is more important than what will be lost through continuing the war. The theme is also exemplified when Lincoln demonstrates what many would consider to be political corruption. Without enough support for the thirteenth amendment, Lincoln hires lobbyists W.N. Bilbo (James Spader), Robert Latham (John Hawkes), and Richard Schell (Tim Blake Nelson) to procure him enough democratic votes in the House of Representatives to pass the thirteenth amendment using any means necessary. Although Lincoln refuses to resort to bribery and blackmail, despite Bilbo, Latham and Schell using these as methods for gaining votes anyway, Lincoln’s actions are still unethical for a president. Lincoln once again justifies his means of ending slavery, however, with ending slavery being for the greater good. Conflicts also occur for Lincoln in his personal life. Throughout the duration of the introduction and some of the rising action of the film, the audience sees Lincoln as, basically, perfect. However, our perception of Lincoln is morphed when we see him argue with his emotionally traumatized wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), who was still suffering from the loss of her son, Willie, who had died in the war three years prior. Because he was so invested in the war and his reelection campaign, Lincoln had emotionally neglected his wife, causing her great distress. Lincoln sacrificed not only much of his personal life, but also the emotional stability of his wife and their relation-ship for, once again, the greater good. Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Lincoln (Joseph GordonLevitt) was studying at law Harvard University when he visited his family with the demand that they let him enlist in the army. Despite all of the hundreds of thousands of young men Lincoln sent to their deaths, Lincoln refused to allow Robert to enlist in the army, not for his own sake, but for his wife’s sake. The greater good in this scenario is the emotional stability of Mary. Lincoln sacrifices his and his son’s ideals for yet again what he believes to be the greater good. Lincoln does eventually allow his son

Lucas Craig to enlist, but puts him in a position where harm will unlikely come to him. The climax of the film is when the House of Representatives votes on the passing of the thirteenth amendment. A tense scene, viewers are left feeling very nervous as to what the result will throughout the entire scene. After all of Lincoln’s political and personal struggles, the amendment is passed by a margin of only two votes. In Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones plays the gruff and aggressive radical republican, Thaddeus Stevens, who is the main advocate for the thirteenth amendment and the end to slavery other than Abraham Lincoln. After the dramatic climax, viewers are shocked to find Stevens return home after the passing of the thirteenth amendment to his African American wife. Extreme at the time, this scene provides viewers with a satisfied resolution to the hardships Stevens underwent to pass the thirteenth amendment and an explanation as to why he tried so hard to pass it in the first place. The multiple conflicts surrounding Lincoln are also resolved with the end to the war, (which occurred six weeks after the passing of the thirteenth amendment,) as Robert Lincoln is safe from harm, Mary is recovering from Willy’s death and slavery has been abolished. Unfortunately for viewers, Lincoln remained true to real life and saw Lincoln tragically killed while watching a play. Due to a voiceover in the final scene, however, we find that Lincoln and his message of peace and equality will be remembered for all of time.

Cinematic Analysis Part B: Historical Accuracy

Lincoln was a historical drama that explored Lincoln’s struggles and achievements during his second term of office until his infamous assignation. Little faulty information was presented in the film, and in large part the film was successful and engaging viewers without sacrificing vital information about the subjects it explored, but some minor historical errors in accuracy replaced actual facts in favor of a more entertaining film. For example, in the dramatic climax where the Senate votes for or against the

Lucas Craig thirteenth amendment, Mary Todd Lincoln is observing with her African American housekeeper beside her from the bleachers. In that time period, the very idea of allowing woman or African Americans into the Senate House was unheard of; furthermore, congressmen did not vote by delegation. Both of these errors were used to create a tenser and more emotional climax. Yet another error discovered in the film is in the scene where Lincoln gives a short yet memorable speech before pulling up the American flag. However, Lincoln was never seen pulling a speech out of the lining of his hat, nor did he use a crank instead of a series of ropes to hoist up a flag. These inaccuracies gave Lincoln a comic appeal, therefore making him more likable as a character. A joke regarding Lincoln on a fifty cent piece was also incorrect to history as Lincoln did not appear on the fifty cent piece until four years after his death. Like Lincoln’s speech, this historical fault relieved the tense mood of the film. Many of the errors in Lincoln are extremely minor and do little to affect the more significant information presented in the film. In fact, they simply enhance the audience’s interest in the movie. Despite minor errors, Lincoln was very successful in not presenting biases with regard to the major characters, which were complex and layered with good and bad qualities. Viewers begin the movie viewing Lincoln as a force for good in America. However, a dramatic scene with his wife reveals that Lincoln is an emotionally neglectful husband, and his methods for attaining democratic votes in the Senate reveal his willingness to act corruptly to achieve an end goal. No matter how noble his goal was, the fact remains that Lincoln skirted the law to achieve it. Lincoln’s wife was an even more complex character in Lincoln. In some scenes she is depicted as the fiercely intelligent devoted wife and mother, whereas she also sometimes depicted as the helpless, emotionally shattered mother and burden to Lincoln. On the other hand, with regard to minor characters, particularly Southern ones, biases were presented. An example of this can be found in Fernando Wood (Lee Pace), a senator from Pennsylvania. This narrow-minded politician is, at least in the film, unable to think of a come-back after the multiple times he was relentlessly insulted by Thaddeus Stevens, thereby making his character and his position seem all the more foolish. Lincoln is set in a time

Lucas Craig where slavery was, for the most part, accepted and even celebrated. Southerners and northerners, civilian, military and political, are depicted as deeply hateful of each other during the Civil War. It was historically significant when it was released a year ago because right now, America is once again politically divided; mainly into liberals and conservatives. The film makes a statement about what divergence can lead to and not repeating past mistakes.

Cinematic Analysis Part C: Use of Metaphors and Imagery

There are many examples of metaphors and imagery in Lincoln. Many of the examples of metaphors in Lincoln are shown through one of Lincoln’s many stories. The purpose of his stories is sometimes meant to demonstrate his humor, ease with human relations and deep political understanding of the Civil War and the thirteenth amendment, while other times the purpose is to give a metaphor for what is going on in America at that moment. An example of this is when, in an attempt to convince his cabinet members that the thirteenth amendment must be passed before the war’s end, Lincoln states that when he was a lawyer in Tennessee he defended a woman who killed her husband in self-defense. In the man’s will, he wrote “well, I expect she’s killed me. If I get over it, I’ll have my revenge.” In this example, the man who wrote the will being killed by his wife represents the Confederacy being defeated by the Union. When Lincoln says “if I get over it,” he is referencing the Confederacy recovering from their defeat. The “revenge” represents the Confederacy not ratifying the amendment. This metaphor is meant to demonstrate how the thirteenth amendment won’t be passed unless it is ratified before the Confederacy rejoins the Union because once they rejoin the union, the Confederacy won’t ratify it. Another example of Lincoln’s story-telling being a metaphor for real-life events is his story in which a man is told that to reach his desired destination he must head straight

Lucas Craig North. However, on his journey, the man heads in a perfectly straight line and because he didn’t walk around it, he died in a swamp. This is a metaphor for the film’s overall theme; sometimes one must sacrifice one’s own morals to achieve an end goal for the greater good. The man’s desired destination represents the ratification of the thirteenth amendment and heading north represents achieving that goal through honest and just means. Unfortunately for Lincoln and the man in the story, taking the ideal route would result in the failure to reach their goal. Lincoln’s justification for his somewhat corrupt actions is that to avoid the “swamp,” Lincoln must sacrifice the ideal route along with his own ideals. Imagery is also used well in Lincoln. In the introduction, a muddy and bloody fight scene is shown between the Northern and Southern forces. Afterwards, Lincoln converses with two white Union soldiers who begin to quote Lincoln’s “Four score and seven years ago” speech before being sent away. After they leave, two African American soldiers take up from where the white soldiers left off with much more passion, symbolizing both equality between all races and how important Lincoln’s notions of freedom were to African Americans.

Works Cited  Pinkster, Mathew. “How Historically Accurate is ‘Lincoln’ the movie?” The Huffington Post., 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 14 Oct 2013.  "Primary Documents in American History." 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress). N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.