Focusing on the final four months of Lincoln's life, including the ending of slavery (Thirteenth Amendment) and the Union victory in the Civil War, Lincoln provides an engaging biopic that is a shining portrait of a leader standing tall in American history. Steven Spielberg, who directed and co-produced Lincoln, together with screenwriter Tony Kushner, created a rich collage encompassing Lincoln’s complex relationships with his wife, older son, close confidant and Secretary of State, William Seward, as well as many other political leaders, friends and foes. Daniel Day-Lewis intensely inhabits Lincoln as the President navigates and manipulates representatives of the House, using all means possible, to pass the controversial amendment.
The film is beautifully directed and acted (Sally Field, David Strathairn and Tommy Lee Jones, to mention a few), enjoying stunning authenticity with respect to the art direction and customs. Janusz Kamiński’s lighting and cinematography are breathtaking.
Areas of weakness include some pacing issue mid-way through the film, just before it picks up again to a crescendo finale. There is also a sense that Spielberg treats Lincoln with some austerity. Despite showing Lincoln manipulating politics beyond the limits of the law, there is a feeling of too much concern on Spielberg’s part to Lincoln’s image. It is actually such moments -- showing Lincoln in his fragility, that could have made Lincoln even more human and approachable. Spielberg chooses not to go all the way. However, with that said, telling a story whose plot and ending are known in advance, and still making it so engaging, is the mark of the great storyteller Spielberg is.