Spielberg’s look at the 16th President of the United States was certainly worth the wait. Scriptwriter Kushner has taken Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography, Team Of Rivals, and focused on the final chapters of the book, the President’s fight to pass the 13th Amendment of the Constitution through the House Of Representatives, to abolish slavery.
Yes, we all know how it turns out but this is still a gripping and absorbing drama with the best performance by a lead actor in 2012.
Lewis stars as the President, playing him with a restraint rarely seen on screen. DDL’s Lincoln is a thinker, a storyteller, a loving father but also a man who knows what he wants and will use any means to get it. For me, this is the best Day Lewis performance I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to say he IS Lincoln, but at times you forget you’re watching an actor playing a part, it’s that good.
He’s ably supported by an excellent cast, I doubt there’s been a better ensemble on a screen for many years: Field as his emotionally scarred wife Mary Todd Lincoln, Jones as the Republican senator whose support Lincoln needs, David Strathairn as Lincoln’s advisor and confidante William Henry Seward, Levitt as Robert Lincoln, Spader, Hawkes, Reuben, Holbrook, it goes on. And each member of the cast fulfils their duty as if under a Presidential directive.
You have to be prepared to pay attention to this film, there are chunks of dialogue that can pass you by if you’re not careful (full disclosure: I’ve seen it twice). But it’s so worthwhile. I suppose you could describe it as an 18th Century West Wing (no bad thing), but that might be selling it a little short.
It is a drama where you know the end but still find yourself fully absorbed by the story. It is a film that will long be remembered, much like the man it portrays. Surprisingly some of the best scenes of the film don’t include Lincoln, but instead involve the arguments and pork-barrel trading of Congress. It makes you wonder just how much things have changed in the following 200+ years.
EXTRAS ★★★ There are six behind-the-scenes featuirettes: The Journey To Lincoln (9:27); In The Company Of Character (10:27); A Historic Tapestry: Richmond, Virginia (4:04); Crafting The Past (10:46); Living With Lincoln (27:07); and In Lincoln's Footsteps 16:38). Plus the theatrical trailer.