At the Movies - Lincoln - review

Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.
Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.

It’d be interesting to find out how many people, on after watching the movie ‘Lincoln’, went home and typed the name of America’s 16th president into Wikipedia.

Admittedly, I knew just as much as the next person about Abraham Lincoln. There’s his height, his hat, the Gettysburg Address and isn’t his face carved into the side of Mount Rushmore?

Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stephens.

Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stephens.

Quite frankly, ‘Lincoln’ is masterful film making and dream weaver extraordinaire, Steven Spielberg (‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’), is even more skilled at telling a story now, than he was when he met the critics’ approval with ‘Schindler’s List’ in (1993).

Spielberg is the director who has defined many generations of cinema lovers but it’s fair to say that ‘Lincoln’ is his most ambitious and powerful movie to date.

If it’s a from the cradle to the grave tale you’re after then you’d be best advised to seek out D.W. Griffith’s 1930 movie ‘Abraham Lincoln’. Spielberg’s offering documents the final few months of Lincoln’s second term and explains in unapologetic detail how he pulled off the impossible and convinced Congress to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which resulted in the abolition of slavery and the freeing of over four million slaves.

Most cinema goers are acutely aware that it is awards season and whilst some films released at this time can be hyped up by film critics and those with a vested interest, ‘Lincoln’ deserves all the credit it is getting and more.

‘Lincoln’ is Spielberg’s most powerful and intelligent film in decades. In terms of acting performances, I can’t remember a time when a film with such a strong leading performance was accompanied by such forceful exhibitions from a supporting cast.

Daniel Day-Lewis (‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’) takes on the inevitably difficult task of playing Abraham Lincoln.

Day-Lewis, who some regard as one of the greatest actors of all time, pulls off what can only be described as his most eminent performance to date - it’s easy to see why he’s hot favourite to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

In the last ten years, British-Irish actor, Day Lewis, left a countless many awe struck with his portrayal of the wonderfully wicked Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York’ (2002) and the diabolically vicious Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood’ (2007).

Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln is a step away from the sense of abandon we’ve become used to when he’s on screen. In Spielberg’s film there’s a tenderness and a great deal of compassion in how Day-Lewis presents the Kentucky born leader.

There’s no doubting Day-Lewis’ prowess - he’s utterly brilliant as Abraham Lincoln but he has stiff opposition in the form of big screen stalwarts Tommy Lee Jones (‘The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’) and Sally Field (‘Forrest Gump’).

Lee Jones plays radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens and his sheer physical presence is an absolute joy to behold.

Field takes on the role of Lincoln’s troubled and dedicated wife, Mary Todd and is nothing short of heartbreaking.

The couple have endured much together - the death of one of their sons and the desire of their eldest boy to enlist and fight in the American Civil War.

Field and Day-Lewis work brilliantly together. Day-Lewis’ Lincoln comes across as the strong silent type but shows moments of vulnerability when confiding in his wife about the dreams he has been having.

Field’s Mary Todd is nothing short of heartbreaking and her love and sense of duty to her husband is tremendously convincing.

‘Lincoln’ is a film that will require a lot of attention but as soon as you engage with the movie you’ll be hooked. It’s intelligently made, it pulls no punches and its message is every as relevant today as it was back in 1865.

VERDICT: 5/5 - It’s a wonderful example of masterful movie making and it’s perhaps Spielberg’s most powerful movie to date. Strong acting performances abound from Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field but the show stopper is Daniel Day-Lewis as the 18th President of the United States - he is outstanding and deserves all of the plaudits going. The Oscars are only weeks away and with ‘Lincoln’ up for 12 Academy Awards it will be no surprise if it cleans up on the night.