By: Lawrence Foster
Rating: 9 out of 10
The United States’ 16th president is one of the most iconic figures in American history and he finally has a movie worthy of his impact.
Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner (inspired by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln) put together a fantastic movie that features an outstanding cast headlined by an all-time performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.
The first thing that has to be discussed is the direction of the movie. Instead of making Lincoln a biography of the president’s life, they focus on Lincoln’s fight to get the House to vote on and pass the 13th Amendment, which proves to be a wise decision. By focusing on such a limited time period — January 1865 — Spielberg and Kushner allow the audience to get to know Lincoln on a more personal level.
I won’t waste any time going into the plot of the story because it is quite literally history, as much as a Hollywood film can be history that is. Rather, this review will focus on what makes this movie stand out: the cast.
Top on the list of great performances is that of Day-Lewis. This comes as no surprise as the veteran actor has a history of Oscar-worthy performances with his performances in There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot, Gangs of New York and In the Name of the Father.
What sets this apart as arguably his best performance is his ability to lose himself in the role of such an iconic figure. Not once during the film did I think “Daniel Day-Lewis is a great actor,” because he WAS Lincoln and I don’t just mean through the magic of modern makeup and costuming. His mannerisms and ability to captivate an audience (both on screen and off) with a story, Day-Lewis brought Lincoln to life in a way very few movie characters have done.
Day-Lewis will rightfully get a lion’s share of the praise for this film, but his supporting cast shouldn’t be forgotten, and likely won’t come awards season.
The best of the supporting group is Sally Field, who portrays Mary Todd Lincoln. Mary Todd is quite the unstable woman and Field captures the peaks and valleys of Lincoln’s better half. The goose-bump inducing argument Abraham and Mary Todd have about their son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) joining the military is an exhibit of why Field is worthy of Oscar consideration — with her back-and-forth with Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) as a close second.
Jones will also probably get nominated as a supporting actor for his hysterical take on Stevens. James Spader (W.N. Bilbo), David Strathairn (William Seward) and Hal Holbrook (Preston Blair) also deliver memorable performances in limited roles.
If you want to get a head start on watching films that will have a big impact at the Oscar’s, put Lincoln at the top of your list. It will be nominated for scores of them.