Looks like Daniel Day-Lewis won the debate.
While both sides grumbled about the performances of their candidates during the first exchange between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Wednesday night, a new trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln seemed to wow viewers across the board.
We’ve seen the confident, folksy Lincoln before. But have we ever seen one with such a haunted, hunted look in his eyes?
I found this trailer to be vastly superior to the first one that came out, which leaned a little heavily on the swelling orchestral score and didn’t quite place the 16th U.S. president at the center of his own story. Instead, things seemed to be happening around him. Is that his voice — or someone else’s?
This time, the background music stays in the background, and instead of trying to make our eyes water with inspiration, it just seeks to quicken our pulse.
Titled “Unite,” the trailer begins with Lincoln’s voice over a series of historical images of civil rights leaders — Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, women suffragists … The goal is clearly to draw a direct line from Lincoln’s effort to pass the 13th Amendment, forever outlawing slavery in the U.S. Constitution, to fights for freedom throughout the ages. It’s damn effective.
While Day-Lewis has already impressed with his appearance, this should put to rest complaints about his voice. Historians say Lincoln spoke with a higher tone than the stentorian rumble of a Gregory Peck or James Earl Jones. Lincoln has risen to such a high level of esteem in our society that we expect him to sound like the Lord Almighty, but Day-Lewis’ voice brings him back to the size of a man. That’s the element in Tony Kushner’s script that makes the goosebumps rise. A god didn’t accomplish what Lincoln did — a human being did.
The voice shakes a little. It’s warm. It’s got a humility to it.
Then we see a different set of images: The flag-raising at Iwo Jima, the storming of the beach at Normandy, and twin columns of light rising from where the World Trade Center once stood.
“We’ve shown that people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere,” Day-Lewis intones. “Shall we stop this bleeding?”
No matter what your political belief, can’t you feel your head nodding along with this? Yeah, it’s easy to do now. Who’s going to fight about the legality of slavery at this point in history? But opening this trailer with images of the many struggles that followed reminds us that Lincoln’s 13th Amendment fight was just one battle in a never-ending war for equality.
What this trailer promises for Lincoln, which opens nationwide on Nov. 16, is the story of a political crusade for something noble — something truly worth fighting for.
Coming on the heels of a present-day debate where both sides wanted stronger stands from their candidates, it was a movie about a long-ago Commander in Chief that provided a much-needed catharsis.
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