Steven Spielberg is probably the only man who could take a subject matter as dry as politics and as well known as Lincoln’s victory over the 13th amendment and make it worth watching for over one-hundred and fifty minutes.
Daniel Day Lewis gives a powerhouse performance as the United States sixteenth President as he deals with the political minefield and personal sacrifices to push his new amendment to abolish slavery. This times difficulty with the persistent American Civil War which has claimed too many lives. Lincoln is in a losing battle; he wants the war ended and slavery abolished in the same stroke… whereas many of the critical voters wish only for the war to end with the compromise of retaining slavery.
As you can see from the lengthy synopsis there, Lincoln is a heavy, heavy film. The Civil War itself acts merely as a backdrop and persistent danger and drive for the President’s actions, the majority of the film focuses on his personal battle of words with the men responsible for ending the war and bringing about a better future. The film demands your attention constantly, but Spielberg’s deft hand allows for Lincoln’s mannerisms and lighthearted stories to lighten the heavy dialogue frequently.
Day-Lewis is fantastic in the role. He is both wise and solid as a worn oak tree, yet human and determined as a man truly selfless and honest. A great sense of gravity is given and allows the audience to see a powerful idol in humanity’s history. All supporting roles are substantially filled, as they should be in a Spielberg picture, and no one appears weak or unnecessary. The film moves at a slow but constant pace.
It is dry, it is extremely dialogue heavy along with self-assessing scenes that make sure the audience isn’t left behind by the politics, but to stick with it is to learn a personal strife and struggle at a critical time in America’s history.
Perhaps not worth a cinema visit per se, but definitely worth a watch!
Additional Marshmallows: Kudos to Spielberg too for making so many of his compositions alike to oil paintings; the lighting and use of shadows makes lounges and rooms murky and deeply solemn.