Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and gives a riveting portrait that certainly will be remembered at awards time. Matched in his performance are those of Sally Field as his wife, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as their eldest son, David Strathairn as the Secretary of State, Hal Holbrook as the party’s finder (and who played Lincoln in a one man show for many years) and, in a very showy role but not overacting, by Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, of the Ways and Means Committee who is considered a radical by his own party members. In less showy, but effective roles, are Gloria Reuben and Stephen Henderson as house servants.
As in most of Spielberg’s movies the production values, here lead by Rick Carter along with the costume designer Joanna Johnston, are first rate. The score by John Williams is very much background music never once interfering with the story or the picture on the screen.
The screenplay by Tony Kushner, based partially on the book “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, shows Lincoln as a man who loved to tell stories, jokes and, yes, give speeches. He is shown as a loving husband, an involved father and a President who knew how to wheel and deal to get things done in Washington D. C. He tells a particularly funny joke about George Washington and the English that if not true should be a part of his legacy.
There is no question about the directing artistry of Steven Spielberg but in “Lincoln” he seems to have made the major mistake of not having a hook for the film to get the audience involved. There is no suspense in how the vote will go on the 13th amendment’s ending slavery. He touches on the Lincoln’s home life but except for Sally Field bringing gravitas to what was a major turn in their relationship most of the film is about the ins and outs of politics which, as we know, can be pretty dull and that is what happens in this film. The main interest is how much the Republican party has changed since the 19th century when they were considered the liberals of their time.
Go to “Lincoln” expecting to see a magnificent portrayal of the man by Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg directing actors to show their best and a literate screenplay play by Tony Kushner but don’t expect to get ‘involved’ with the movie.