Steven Spielberg assembles an incredible cast of noted character performers for this dense, stately yet thoroughly rewarding history lesson. As a Brit, my knowledge of the American Civil War is sketchy at best, but Spielberg’s film is a far cry from something like Glory. Lincoln is a film about politics, negotiation and compromise, as the President battles against everyone, from the Democrats to his own wife, to push through the 13th Amendment and abolish slavery before the war comes to an end. His tactics along the way were often considerably more underhand than his ultimate intention, but he will always be remembered for his unwavering dedication to getting the job done.
Daniel Day Lewis gives a phenomenal performance as Lincoln, in just the latest role in a career filled with incredible performances. He should easily walk away with his third Best Actor Oscar next month (an unprecedented achievement) and solidify his position as the World’s Greatest Living Screen Actor. While the film is every bit DDL’s show, there is excellent support from Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn and Sally Field, while Spielberg shows notable restraint in what could so easily have become a melodramatic, schmaltz-fest. High praise must also be awarded to Tony Kushner for his incredibly verbose yet riveting screenplay. Featuring almost no action, Lincoln is a film of words, conversations, parables and debates, and Kushner’s dialogue is the rich blood that gives life to this complex account of a pivotal moment in US History.