Summary: Abraham Lincoln's presidency is seen by most historians as the ascendancy of the greatest leader in American history. The primary accomplishments of Lincoln's leadership are narrowed to the lightning rod items of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and the winning of the American Civil War. This film is an attempt at historical narrative through the vision of the book "Team of Rivals" (Goodwin). The film is directed by Steven Spielberg, who (unlike the pitiable attempts by Oliver Stone and other revisionists to history) does not try to cast his own vision of reality, only present the story with brilliant intensity and humble respect to reality. A triumph, worthy of its subject.
Full Review: Under the direction of legendary Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field take the screen in their most realistic roles ever, telling the story of Lincoln's most crucial achievement. Achievement that changed US and world history by inaugurating an age of American vanguard stance as a defender of human and racial rights. Winning the civil war and passing the 13th amendment to the US constitution are the pivotal points of this drama. But they are made real and riveting by the acting by Lewis and Field (with the support of Tommy Lee Jones), and the directors homage to historical accuracy as taken from the Doris Kearns Goodwin book "Team of Rivals". The movie isn't meant to be Hollywood, but is clearly meant to be confined within the realm of reality. If you accept Goodwin's details of Lincoln's biographical narrative, then this movie is an unmistakeable triumph.
Spielberg's work, as usual, is outstanding, especially in his restraint for the time period as a uniquely other world than what we often envision looking through our 21st Century worldviews. The acting, though excellent, is just a shade away from legendary. Something palpable dominates the screen when Lewis is in frame, but the meager 149 minutes given to Lincoln seems to truncate what might have been a masterpiece worthy of 3 hour film time. Sally Field does fill the role of troubled and irritating Mary Todd Lincoln, and does so with complexity due the character. There was a bit of room left in my rating (A-, rather than A or A+) because of the legendary status this film had the chance to attain. One wonders what would have been done had the scope or detail been broadened to give us a full 180 minutes. The story is so deep, it feels like we scratch the surface, settle in for the film, and then it ends.
That said, if you have the opportunity to see this movie while it is still in theatres, do so. Otherwise, be sure to pick it up in the Netflix, Amazon or other outlets as it releases therein. Don't miss it.
For parents, this movie should be reserved for children that are 11 and over. Some brief but severe scenes of war carnage, and a few instances of offensive language give this movie rating its MPAA "PG13" rating.
Amazon DVD Link: http://amzn.to/UQkTYP
Review by Kim Gentes