Idaho's Lincoln expert, Dave Leroy, gives "Lincoln" 8-plus on scale of 10

Former Attorney General and Lt. Gov. Dave Leroy's interest in President Lincoln -- who signed the bill creating Idaho Territory in 1863 -- is legend.

So when Leroy offered his review of the new film starring Daniel Day Lewis, I couldn't resist. I liked the movie a little bit better than Leroy, perhaps because it movingly conveyed the internal struggles of such a remarkable man. I'd give it a solid "9."

Here's Leroy's review:


Steven Spielberg’s latest release is playing to strong and favorable audience reaction in movie houses throughout the Gem State. Opening night was packed at the Boise Edwards Theater for the drama of Abraham Lincoln’s January 1865 effort, using shady political tactics, to gain last minute votes in Congress. It plays out with Daniel Day Lewis as a unique and believable Lincoln. His reluctant ally is Tommy Lee Jones as an abolitionist Pennsylvania Congressman named Thaddeus Stevens. The movie animates a key, but now obscure, moment in American political history.

After a poignant opening detailing a fictional encounter between Lincoln and two black soldiers in the field, the movie slows down as characters must explain a bit too much detail about the political situation of the day. The Radical, Conservative and other political forces are arrayed to wrangle over the possible passage of the Thirteenth Amendment forever banning slavery. Lincoln wants action now, even though these same Congressman had voted it down only months earlier. Can Lincoln and Secretary Seward, and group of hired henchmen threaten, buy, cajole, or nobly appeal for just a few more votes?

The drama in the Capitol hallways and on the floor of the House of Representatives is punctuated by several emotional side stories. We eavesdrop on Robert Todd Lincoln, who argues his right to enlist in the army with a reluctant father. Mary Lincoln torments her husband with her abject sorrows and fears. We see Lincoln tenderly stroking the head of his young son Tad. The tensions of the War Department and its communication center, the Telegraph Office, are somberly depicted for the first time in American cinemagraphic history.

The story takes place just two years after a much less aged and troubled Lincoln lobbied and signed the bill creating Idaho Territory in early 1863. The movie closes with a scene set in the Cabinet Room on the evening of April 14, 1865. Just three hours earlier, though not referred to in the film, Lincoln had invited Idaho Territory’s Congressman William Wallace to attend Ford’s Theater with him that night. The Idahoan could not go. Mrs. Wallace was ill.

Lincoln, the movie, is an important slice of history, well depicted and worth enjoying. It even has its own surprise ending, as Congressman Stevens is shown in his bedroom with the official tally sheet of the House vote just concluded. Though powerful scenes punctuate the story, it sometimes does not track smoothly as a cohesive whole. Day Lewis’ Lincoln is a stooped, stressed figure, who resorts to humor at questionably appropriate times simply to stay sane. He barely survives the human devastation and political casualty of the Civil War. But Lincoln is also the master of both men and monumental events whom we see and hear deliver the powerful Second Inaugural Address on the Capitol steps, in the most realistic such scene ever filmed. On the ten scale, this movie rates an “eight plus”.

Dave Leroy was the Chairman of the Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He is a Lincoln author, speaker and collector. The Idaho History Center in Boise will open a “Lincoln Legacy” museum gallery permanently displaying items donated from Leroy’s collection in September, 2013.