Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is one of the best acted, best written, best directed movies of the year. With a script by Tony Kushner, which is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, this film puts history in the right perspective and shows a view of the man and his politics that we have not seen before. Still this is not an action film but rather a dialogue-driven one and therefore it will not be a film for the masses. Audiences must be attentive to every word of the script and in every nuance of the telling. This is something younger audiences as a whole will not be willing to do.
The film focuses on the few months when Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) was trying to end the war and was also striving to get the 13th Amendment passed. He knew he had the backing of the Republicans but he needed twenty Democrats. This was a do at all costs proposal and if it took twisting a few arms and awarding some patronage he was all for it.
The measure was being driven by Thaddeus Stephens (Tommy Lee Jones), who had dedicated most of his political life to seeing the end of slavery. The President was aided by a host of helpers including W. N. Bilbo (James Spader), Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), James Ashley (David Costabile) and many others. His biggest supporter was his wife Mary (Sally Field).
Lincoln is seen as a man of character and stature, but one who was also a persistent storyteller. This trait adds to his humanness as does the fractures in his marriage. He and Mary had three sons and the middle son Willie died at a young age. Mary obviously never recovered from this loss.
Daniel Day-Lewis is nothing short of brilliant in his role as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field matches him talent for talent, though hers is a much briefer appearance than his. They are both complemented by the supporting actors such as Spader, Costabile, David Strathairn, Gloria Reuben, Tim Blake Nelson and many, many more. There is not one weak performance and all are perfectly cast down to the smallest of roles (Example: Lukas Haas as an unnamed soldier).
The film is rated PG-13 for profanity and wartime violence.
Lincoln is a classic that will stand the test of time. It will be a monument to the talents of Spielberg, Kushner, Day-Lewis and Field. Though it won't appeal to all, it will appeal to the ages.
I scored Lincoln a Presidential 8 out of 10.