Steven Spielberg is a well-known history buff, and leaned heavily on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin who wrote the book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" for which the film “Lincoln” is in part based.The film is a portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of the men who served with him in his Cabinet. The film focuses on Lincoln's mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and the events leading up to the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The film opens on the battlefield, but little more of the Civil War is shown beyond this sequence.The words of the Gettysburgh Address are recited to Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) by soldiers establishing how powerful of an orator the President was.As the Civil War continues to rage, Abraham Lincoln struggles with continuing the numbers lost in battle and fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves. President Lincoln and other Republicans was concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would be seen as a temporary war measure, since it was solely based on Lincoln's war powers. Working closely with his Cabinet notably including Secretary of State William H. Seward (David Strathairn) and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill) the struggles to pass the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives proved to be difficult.The glad-handing mission to win votes from Democrats is taken on by Robert Latham (John Hawkes) and WN Bilbo (James Spader) while Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook) works as a civilian to help negotiate peace with Alexander Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley) and others.In the House of Representatives the 13th Amendment is championed by Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and others within the Republican Party who uses quick wit to provoke the opponents on the other side of the isle.While the fight to abolish slavery takes place both in Washington and the battlefields there is also a fight at home between Lincoln and Mary Todd (Sally Fields) who are still struggling with the loss of their son and the appropriate amount of attention to give to their two remaining sons, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tad (Gulliver McGrath).The assassination is well known, and in true Spielberg fashion we are left with the emotions of the event even though it is not shown specifically.
The film has a theatrical feel to it that never allows the audiences to be fully engaged by the story. Instead the legal procedural jumps from scene-to-scene requiring message boards similar to an episode of "Law and Order" to inform the audience just who each actor is and the date of this most significant event. The film is a whitewash of Lincoln and slavery, instead celebrating the amazing man without acknowledging his political views.With its drawbacks, the acting in the film is what really stands out. Many are required to deliver long and memorable speeches, with just a small amount of humor delivered by James Spader in a performance that would make Falstaff roll in the isles.Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field are very much deserving of a best actor and supporting actress nomination, but don’t be surprised if Tommy Lee Jones also receives a supporting actor nomination.Everyone in the cast absolutely delivers a flawless performance that
There are no vampires in this more honest telling of the 16th President of the United States, but the script leaves the audience wanting to know more about the actual individuals involved.The make-up is amazing as you get lost in the faces of the actors to recognize who they are.Not only was Daniel Day-Lewis transformed into Abraham Lincoln, but also Jared Harris into Ulysses S. Grant among others.This is a 5 Quack film that will be the measure for Lincoln in the classroom for years to come.