BY PETER MCGORAN
This was a film I had waited impatiently to see ever since it was first released in the US in November 2012. Neither the snow nor the flag protests were going to stop me as I raced across town in time to see the premier of Lincoln. And it paid off.
Director Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner were at the helm. They provide an intimate portrayal of an American president attempting to implement the contentious amendment to abolish slavery, while also ending the bloodiest war in America’s history.
However, to all those expecting graphic and action-packed depictions of war (in typical Spielberg fashion), there will be considerable disappointment. The battlefield in this film is the House of Congress and the weapons used are votes, dubious politics and rousing speeches. That’s not to put anyone off. The tension between the Republicans and Democrats is expertly played up by Tommy Lee Jones in his role as the fiery abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens and Lee Pace as the scheming Fernando Wood – the film paints a picture of conflict that no battle scene ever could.
Whenever politics and the speeches seem on the verge of heavy-handedness, we find relief in the emotionally stirring performance of Sally Field as Lincoln’s damaged wife and the comic cynicism of James Spader who, as one of Lincoln’s advisers, employs any-means-necessary tactics to galvanise votes for the passing of the amendment.
But the shining star of the film is Daniel Day-Lewis as Honest Abe himself. And who would expect anything less from a man who goes to torturous lengths to get in character for any role he plays? Who better to play a man so passionate in office than a man so passionate about his acting? Day-Lewis perfectly encompasses the fragile yet commanding figure of the president. In particular, during the final few months of his life, his performance ensures Lincoln is an intensely personal story as well as one with powerful repercussions for an entire country.
If I had but one endorsement of Lincoln it would be Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance. Thankfully, however, I have many. Brave whatever conditions you are constricted by: go see this film.