Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Reviewers' opinions on this film range from "masterpiece," to "the perfect cure for insomnia." I'm not your average movie-goer, but I wasn't bored a moment of this masterful exploration of one of the most pivotal moments in our nation's history.
For three years, the Civil War has waged, tearing families apart. President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) has been re-elected, and before being sworn into his second term, he intends to bring the 13th Amendment to a vote, which prohibits slavery. Abolitionists are concerned that with so little time to recruit support, it won't pass and will never again come to the floor, but Lincoln is insistent, in spite of others warning him of the political backlash. Although against pressing the issue, his friend and political ally William Seward (David Strathairn) recruits help in enlisting positive votes from "lame duck Democrats" with nothing to lose. Their most determined advocate is the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), whom some fear may go overboard in his belief that "all men are created equal."
Standing against them is the charismatic Fernando Wood (Lee Pace) and a host of other Southern-leaning Democrats. In the meantime, others pressure Lincoln to discuss ending the war with representatives of the Southern States, and he deals with his wife Mary's (Sally Field) continuing mental imbalance after the tragic death of their son.
This is a film full of noteworthy performances (among them those of James Spader, Hal Holbrook, and Joseph Gordon-Lovett), but certainly the highest praise goes to Daniel Day-Lewis, whose Lincoln is both a charismatic and likable man and an undeniable leader, or in his own words, a man "clothed in immense power." I anticipated powerhouse acting but didn't anticipate a script as witty and clever as it is impacting -- rarely does a minute go by when some quip or humorous twist isn't present, ranging from good, old-fashioned senate insults to the humorous stories Lincoln is fond of telling his cabinet. The costume design and interior work is gorgeous, as is the cinematography.
Speilberg makes some interesting directing choices that work in unexpected ways, sometimes borrowing from famous paintings and at other times, tugging on our heartstrings in unanticipated ways. Rather than witness the tragic end of Lincoln's life at Ford's Theatre, we are with his son Tad when the news is announced, left to wrangle our own grief and compare it with that of a devastated little boy whose hero has just been slain. I regret that there is so much profane language, but in every other way it's the best movie of the year, and certainly a contender for major awards. Should it win (and I think it should), it'll be a victory well-deserved.
An unmarried couple are shown sharing a bed.
18 uses of GD, 1 abuse of Jesus' name, mild profanities, several uses of s**t, racial slang.
Opening scene shows soldiers killing one another (stabbing, shooting, kicking, drowning); men dump a wheelbarrow full of severed limbs into a pit.