We get our first looks this week at Daniel Day-Lewis’ pensive Abe in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (Nov. 9) and the rugged Russell Crowe as Noah in Darren Aronofsky’s eponymous biblical epic (March 2014). What’s striking is how personal you can tell these movies are for their respective directors.
Spielberg has labored for years to adapt Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals to the screen, finally seizing on a procedural approach scripted by Tony Kushner in dramatizing the final four months of Lincoln’s life in trying to end the Civil War and unite the country while crucially enacting the Emancipation Proclamation in a behind-the-scenes political struggle. Just look at Day-Lewis. He is Lincoln. As Spielberg suggests in EW, he not only captures the likeness of the 16th president but also the inner turmoil. He’s carrying the burden of the country on his shoulders and shouldering his own personal demons. “Our movie is really about a working leader who must make tough decisions and get things done in the face of overwhelming opposition,” Spielberg says. More than any other director, Spielberg has metaphorically explored the post-9/11 ethos with compassion and ambiguity. Not surprisingly, I’ve heard that Day-Lewis is spellbinding and that Spielberg has wisely built his film around that performance visually and dramatically. I think this is going to be something special.
Meanwhile, Crowe brings an extra dimension to Noah. After all, this is a beleaguered man tasked by God with a fantastical mission at great personal sacrifice. Aronofsky has wanted to tell this tale since childhood. And the Ark is an iconic symbol with many layers; so is Noah as a warrior and savior, who must confront Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah and battle the elements. Like Lincoln, he shoulders a heavy burden for humanity and for himself. I think Noah is a touchstone for Aronofsky as well.