To say that ‘Lincoln’ is a powerful film is certainly true, but it leaves a great deal unsaid. For this new perspective on Honest Abe one must take several factors into account, including Steven Spielberg for starters and adding Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field and other outstanding performers. Then one must note that the film’s plot revolves around what was arguably one of the most significant events in the history of the United States of America.
In the last months and days of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln was faced with decisions that would have far-reaching and tumultuous consequences, with the issues of human rights versus the accepted (by many) practice of slavery and the future of the United States as a nation in the balance.
Spielberg’s film is not intended as light entertainment, nor does it remotely fit that category, but it is a gripping and passionately told story, firmly based in fact. Daniel Day-Lewis is totally believable and unforgettable as Lincoln, a man of great humility combined with courage and conviction. Those traits and others such as the off-beat humour and sharp intelligence of the man come through with outstanding clarity.
Rather than special effects (though there are some gut-wrenching battle scenes) the film concentrates on personalities and politics in a way that makes it all too contemporary – certainly not confined to a specific historical moment. Daniel Day-Lewis offers an intense and very human portrayal of a down-to earth and canny President who must bargain and negotiate with opposing factions in order to further his cause.
‘Lincoln’ is a masterful melding of history, human drama and the sort of political manoeuvring that has always typified governments in general and strikes a very familiar note today. In Lincoln’s case the issues in question would literally shape the future of a powerful nation and all of its citizens. The film is an extremely ambitious project that succeeds very well indeed.