Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a masterful recreation of the Civil War president and the efforts that led to the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ratified December 6, 1865), abolishing slavery.
We all have some idea of Abraham Lincoln the man—if his statue could come to life and he were to step down from his marble pedestal. As a Lincoln admirer (and sometimes Lincoln scholar, Lincoln document authenticator, collector of Lincoln memorabilia, etc.), I have developed a considered opinion as to what the real Lincoln was like.
Daniel Day-Lewis reincarnates that Lincoln—or actually those Lincolns: the witty, storytelling Lincoln, the melancholy Lincoln, the shrewdly political yet noble Lincoln—as well as the lawyerly Lincoln, who knew that the Emancipation Proclamation, a wartime measure, would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment in order to finally end slavery.
Neither are the other Lincolns—the understanding husband, doting father, commander in chief—neglected. Day-Lewis becomes the Lincoln for all seasons. He even gives a credible voice to the sixteenth president, whose speech was actually higher pitched, more nasal, and softer than Hollywood has so often portrayed.
Other stellar performances are given by Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln), David Strathairn (as Secretary of State William Seward), and others, but they owe much of their opportunity to excel to screenwriter Tony Kushner, who adapted a slim portion of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals to help create—under Spielberg’s excellent direction—a powerful historical drama.
Now—as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said of the assassinated Lincoln himself—the movie Lincoln “belongs to the ages.”
Rating: Four wooden nickels (out of four)