In “Lincoln,” director Steven Spielberg presents the political process that let to the passage of the 13th Amendment, just weeks before the President was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre. Portraying the iconic Abraham Lincoln is English-Irishman Daniel Day-Lewis, in what many are calling an Oscar-winning performance. The cast also includes Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward. The script is by Tony Kushner, who gave us “Angels in America,” so expect good conversation.
Here’s what the critics are saying:
There are exceptions, of course, and one of them is Steven Spielberg’s splendid “Lincoln,” which is, strictly speaking, about a president trying to scare up votes to get a bill passed in Congress. It is of course about a lot more than that, but let’s stick to the basics for now. To say that this is among the finest films ever made about American politics may be to congratulate it for clearing a fairly low bar. Some of the movie’s virtues are, at first glance, modest ones, like those of its hero, who is pleased to present himself as a simple backwoods lawyer, even as his folksy mannerisms mask a formidable and cunning political mind. A.O. Scott, the New York Times
Director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kusher and the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis may have done the impossible in "Lincoln": They've given us a politician to love — without reservations. Drawing on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's expansive "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," the filmmaking collective conjures up a portrait of a far more nuanced leader than the stoic country lawyer in a stove-pipe hat. Indeed, the strength of the film rests in the strength of the character — a whimsical raconteur, a brilliant strategist and a troubled humanist. The heart of the story is the president's unyielding push to pass the 13th amendment and ensure the freedom accorded by the Emancipation Proclamation. Day-Lewis is equally unwilling to compromise, burying himself so deeply in Lincoln that the true spirit of that long-ago leader rises with such passion and purity that it is humbling to watch. Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
Now, nearly 150 years after Lincoln's death, it would seem that the 16th president -- a towering blend of morals, intellect, determination and sartorial quirk -- was destined to become an icon one way or the other, thanks to his singular achievements in office. John Wilkes Booth and his girly Derringer didn't do anything toward assuring that. They only hastened the inevitable.
As evidence, one needs only watch Steven Spielberg's magnificent -- and magnificently timed -- "Lincoln," an Oscar-ready historical masterpiece that does double duty as a history lesson and as a reminder of the paralytic limitations of a house divided.
Yes, our 16th president belongs to the ages in the sense that is he's an iconic, larger-than-life figure. (Plus -- all those pennies.) But "Lincoln" builds a convincing case that there's much more to it than that. Honest Abe belongs to the ages in that his wisdom, his conviction and his notable legacy live on as strongly today as the day he died in 1865 -- and that we, as a nation currently crippled by a particularly ugly strain of partisanship, can still learn valuable lessons from him. Mike Scott, NOLA.com
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