I’m not of the belief that everything Steven Spielberg directs is noteworthy. There are duds like The Terminal and then there are expensive mistakes like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull. Still, at the lowest moments of those movies they had some amount of entertainment to them, even if much it derived from the films’ sheer absurdities. When Spielberg is good though, he is very good. He’s great actually. It’s plain that Lincoln is a project he cared for tremendously and one with a rousing tale he knew was highly worthy of cinematic interpretation.
The film’s premise revolves around the events surrounding the conclusion of the American Civil War as the President, among others, worked strenuously to pass the thirteenth amendment in the House of Representatives, which would abolish slavery in the United States.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays the sixteenth president. Lewis plays with Lincoln with an intense calmness and infuses the part with great believability and profundity. The actor makes evident the mammoth weight of the country’s fate that sat on the president’s shoulders for many months. What truly highlights Lewis acting role is his ability to demonstrate Lincoln’s moments of deep thought. Much of Day-Lewis’s finest work in Lincoln is when he isn’t saying a word, but merely sitting there, wholly in character as Abraham Lincoln, mulling over the wide future ahead.
Sally Field’s performance as Mary Todd is as captivating as they come. She has such vigor coupled with a distinctive grace that pays huge respect to the real first lady and reaffirms Field as one of the best actresses alive today. Whether a golden statues reaches her hand next year or not, she will be remembered for this role. James Spader as William Bilbo is the film’s other best supporting performance. He has a special energy and idiosyncratic flair with his part that forces our attention to him in every scene, not to mention he gives Bilbo palpable humanity and has the funniest one-liners in the movie.
Lincoln educates without coming across like your seventh grade teacher. It entertains without softening the details of the layered chaos that built the American Civil War. Spielberg has made a gorgeous and expressive motion picture and still gives his actors full reign over each and every frame. This is a story of passionate people who battled in more ways than one, for years, to realize their grand aims for civil liberties, among other pressing issues plaguing the nation at the time. Accompanied by a lush score from John Williams, Lincoln is an inspired, well-crafted, funny and humane snapshot of the sixteenth president’s life, fiercely reminding us of history’s constant, great importance and the richness to our lives it brings. Steven Spielberg has taken an imperfect past and spun it into a nearly flawless show.