Steven Spielberg’s latest screen offering follows the last four months of United States President Abraham Lincoln’s life, and depicts his efforts during 1865 to obtain passage for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the House of Representatives, in order to abolish slavery.
However, the civil war could end at any time and if peace comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it becomes law. Lincoln must obtain enough votes from Congress before peace arrives.
Daniel Day-Lewis puts in a fantastic central performance as the 16th President. He presents to the audience a wise man of great intelligence, charm, and humour. Lincoln is also presented as a man weary from war and personal loss, but also as a great leader.
The President is playing a dangerous game and is torn by the decisions he must make. An early peace could save thousands of lives, but if he delays the vote it will be too late.
The film is mostly filled with dense dialogue, and a great number of important characters all with speaking parts. The film can be difficult to get to grips with for younger crowds.
The film has several stand out scenes, the horrors of the civil war are shown briefly at the beginning and end of the film, the opening scenes brutally depict the violence of the war. The depiction of the amendment going to the house floor is a staggeringly good scene and conveys the intensity and pressure felt in the room well.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones’s performance as fervent abolitionist and Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens. He plays the character with a passion to see the bill go through, and also a man of good humour and delivers a few lines that brought a smile to my face.
There are great performances from Daniel Strathairn as Secretary of State, William H. Seward, and Sally Field as First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln.
The film is light on action, and focuses more on dialogue and observing the work of Abraham Lincoln and those around him to pass what is perhaps one of the most important changes to law in History.
There is a heavy runtime (150 minutes) which may be tough for some, but it is an engaging and powerful film, which is an interesting depiction of perhaps one of Americas most famous Presidents.
The film concludes with the famous assassination at the Ford theatre of Abraham Lincoln, which is tastefully played down, fitting with the film, although I wondered if it detracts from the rest of the film. I highly recommend Lincoln as an insight into American political history, and for some stand out performances, but don’t forget to put your thinking cap on for this one.
Thanks to The Capitol, Horsham