Daniel Day-Lewis, who stars as our 16th President, is most certainly going to see Oscar gold for this spellbinding performance. He depicts Abraham Lincoln as a down-to-earth, intelligent, plainspoken man with ambition and ideals, but a man who isn’t afraid to play behind-the-back politics realistically in order to achieve what is ultimately just. Lincoln pushed to pass the 13th Amendment because he believed that slavery was immoral, but also because it would help the Union crush the Confederates war movement, and ending the war was a most important priority for almost all of Washington. Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln as calmly collected and respectful man, with a realistic sense of the world and an air of self-confidence that great leaders aspire too. Lincoln is not portrayed as a ferocious politician, instead a realistic one who strives to achieve what he believes to be right.
As the House of Representatives battle over this controversial amendment to the constitution, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) works hard to pass the abolition of slavery. He is seen here as mildly loud-mouthed and crafty, particularly when dealing with the difficult opposition of the democrats. Jones plays the part with energy, making room for his character’s underlying true heart to show as well. In the White House, the man helming the bill is Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn). Seward is loyal to the President’s views, but he doesn’t seem to share the personal determination of Stevens or Lincoln.
In order to have the 13th Amendment passed, Lincoln hires three negotiators to persuade enough democrats to vote yes for the bill in exchange for jobs, titles, and whatever else he has to offer. This is a different view of Lincoln than the one we most often think of, but the President portrayed here is perhaps the most realistic take we have ever seen on US presidential history. Day-Lewis shows Lincoln’s soft-spoken exterior with terrific attention to the details of the character, and in his face we see the years of war that Lincoln has suffered through, and the exhaustion of leading such a divided nation.
Steven Spielberg has been a master director for forty years now, and his latest film work continues to be some of his best. Lincoln shows the director at a refined new level, the accuracy of the film as well as the sterling performances rooted in Tony Kushner’s script are directed with such mastery by Spielberg, that no other director could have made this movie. Lincoln is long and at times dense, but its packs such incredible performances, as well as having a wonderful soundtrack and outstanding directing, making it one of the most honorable films of the year.