3 1/2 Stars
The story begins in January of 1865 just two moths after the 16th Presidents’ reelection, and a mere four months before his assassination. After having pushed through the emancipation proclamation during his first term, and winning a second term, Abe feels like the people are in support of freeing the slaves-if only to put an end to the four year old civil war. So we follow the back-room dealings to gain traction on the hill, and the manipulation of political ideals as Lincoln attempts to outlaw the ownership of humans.
This is an incredibly dense story, with historical figures moving swiftly throughout the tale, often with only brief mention of that persons name or political rank. Astute students of history are more likely to be clued into the struggle among Lincoln and the House of Representatives over the 13th Amendment, between those that stand opposed to and those for the abolishment of slavery.
Daniel Day Lewis inhabits the role completely, choosing to speak in a gravely whisper rather than the baritone bellowing that has become expected. All while showcasing a man of common sense and uncommon decency during an incomprehensible time in our nation’s history. Impeccably casted and preformed by a group of actors spouting esoteric rhetoric in an overstated theatrical manner, that is fitting for the time period and subject matter.
The performance is in the body language and the eyes, those sympathetic yet stern glances that express emotional context just as effectively as the sharp script from scribe Tony Kushner.
Credit is due to the creative forces in front of and behind the cameras, for creating a dimensional character that seems far more emotionally complex and fallible than that memorial statute in Washington D.C. would lead you to believe. In doing so, for a brief moment I forgot about the sad conclusion to this riveting mans life.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones