A stoic, mild-mannered and down to earth Daniel Day-Lewis shines as he portrays the legendary American President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” The film follows the last few months of Lincoln’s life and time in office as the Civil War rages on and the passage of the 13th Amendment looms.
The film excels in the way that it focuses little on the Civil War and instead hones in on the gritty politics occurring at that time. Lincoln needs votes to secure the passage of the amendment, so he enlists the help of W.N. Bilbo (James Spader), Robert Latham (John Hawkes) and Tim Blake Nelson (Richard Schell) to sway the opinion of more moderate democrats through clever persistence and position offerings.
The scenes in the House of Representative are so brilliantly orchestrated and show the true colors of 1800s politics. These men do not use their fists but instead employ their wit and linguistic talents to present their ideas and bring down one another. The best example of this is the sharp-tongued and relentless Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) who terrorizes all who oppose him with mocking conviction and witty satire.
The film highlights the most intimate relationships in Lincoln’s life that are not as publicized, like his association with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field). Arguments inside their quarters show the true nature of their relationship. Although sometimes strained, they have a real love for each other through the loss of their son at the hands of the war. The viewer gets a personal look at warm moments with his youngest son Tad Lincoln (Gulliver McGrath) and tense moments with rebellious son Robert Lincoln (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Secretive negotiations with the Confederacy are also touched upon with grace. Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris) in all of his militaristic competence deals with Alexander Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley) behind closed doors. This creates tension in the House later in the film when voting on the 13th Amendment is delayed by this unsettling news.
The film is draped in heavy drama that shrouds one of the most prominent figures in American history. A realistic approach is taken in “Lincoln.” There are very few moments of dullness as Daniel Day-Lewis extinguishes any doubt that he does not deserve an Oscar nomination. A beloved president is shown in a natural light as he tells anecdotes to near strangers and makes an effort in knowing the people he surrounds himself with.
The film has a noble and tasteful finish in the way that it portrays Lincoln’s demise. It is a treat to history buffs and is well worth the 2.5 hours of political majesty and divulgence into the life of the great Abraham Lincoln.