(Steven Spielberg, 2012)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Daniel Day-Lewis' incredible performance anchors Spielberg's wordy political drama allowing the narrative an access point to reign supreme over the masses.
'Lincoln' could well be the least 'Spielberg'-esque film Steven Spielberg has ever made. Gone are the sweeping vistas, epic action scenes and even John Williams' score is talked down from the usual dizzy melodic heights, but that's not to say that 'Lincoln' is dull, even when the majority of the scenes are interiors of people in wigs and suits talking about American politics.
Tony Kushner's script largely dispenses with backstory, instead focussing solely on the last four months of Lincoln's presidency - a time when the president (Day-Lewis) worked hard to end the American civil war while abolishing slavery just before he got assassinated. He's got a haunted, depressed wife (Sally Field) to care for and confide with, just as his son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is returning home determined to enlist in the war that Lincoln is prolonging just enough to pass his historical 13th amendment to end slavery.
This is no family drama; there are a lot more characters to contend with. Lincoln's main confidant William Seward (David Strathairn) hires smarmy WN Bilbo (James Spader) and his associates (John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson) to secure some votes from the opposition even if it means playing dirty, prompting a great scene in which Spader, Lee Nelson and Hawkes perch themselves from the upper seats of the United States House of Representatives observing how politicians squirm at proposed bills, knowing which ones would be easily led and which are off limits before they move in for the real hunt.
During these all-important moments set in the Constitution debates, Tommy Lee Jones does his best work in years as abolitionist Republican Thaddeus Stevens - a man of secrets, passion and biting wit forever in danger of falling on his own sword but he'd set himself up for the fall just to get a point across to an audience.
Jackie Earle Haley plays the leader of a Confederate delegation heading towards Washington to negotiate peace but that'll never happen if he knows about the plan to abolish slavery - remember that slaves were dealt with as a commodity and such a move would effectively strangle half of the civil war's economy. The military angle is portrayed by a splendid Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant. There are plenty more angles too, all populated by excellent actors whose familiarity and grace helps make the complex ideas much easier to follow, but it's Lincoln (and indeed Day-Lewis) who so masterfully guides his audience towards their places on the domino board with his warm stories, simmering passion and even jokes before sitting back to watch the pieces fall with such stately intellect.
More moments of Lincoln on his own would've gone down well, but instead we get to see a man of the people turning the cogs with brave precision - there are only a few scenes of Lincoln at his most vulnerable and the assassination isn't even one of them. Instead he's seen as a fixer who glides through society almost like a ghost, willing people to change their minds with his stature and authority.
There would be a temptation to make this an all-American flag waving epic, but this is a true political drama. It is less concerned with American history or even the president himself. Instead, it spellbinds its audience with a guided tour of the political machine. It could be any country at any time - the interactions here are universal.
Kushner's script has so much to say, urgently pushing out so much great dialogue via the trained mouths of some of Hollywood's finest. That is joy enough, but when the message is so important it makes the viewing experience all the more enjoyable. Spielberg wisely lets Kushner and Day-Lewis spearhead the endeavour, but while his usual flourishes are subdued there is no denying that this is a master director at work. And this is a true American masterwork.
Watch the UK theatrical trailer and view more stills from 'Lincoln' HERE at Cinemas Online.
Other film news
We'd previously only been given a glimpse of Daniel Craig's turtleneck in the poster, but now the first teaser trailer for the massively anticipated 'Skyfall' follow-up, 'SPECTRE', has landed and it's available to watch in all its HD glory right here.
Pre-production has already started on Justin Lin's 'Star Trek 3' but the villain role has yet to be cast. The Hollywood Reporter has now reported that Idris Elba is officially in talks to fill those shoes.
Here's the first glimpse of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice', as first broken over at Entertainment Weekly.
Bradley Cooper set to make his debut as director, taking over from Clint Eastwood for music drama 'A Star Is Born'.
A live-action feature-film adaptation of Jim Henson's 'Fraggle Rock' has been in various stages of early development for the better part of a decade, but now it looks like it's making some real progress: 'Brick' star Joseph Gordon-Levitt has confirmed that he'll be starring.
Michael Biehn, the cult actor who is best known for his work in James Cameron sci-fi classics 'The Terminator', 'The Abyss' and 'Aliens', has confirmed that he will be returning to the 'Alien' franchise in Neill Blomkamp's upcoming sequel.
Here's the first look at 'Bridge of Spies' - the upcoming dramatic thriller directed by triple Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg (âSaving Private Ryan,â âSchindlerâs Listâ) and starring two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks (âForrest Gump,â âPhiladelphiaâ). The first official images sees Hanks' lawyer character in action.
'Into the Wild' star Emile Hirsch scrubbed up well for his mugshot as he posed after a court appearance in Park City, Utah, this week.
It has now been proposed by an eyewitness that the 'Indiana Jones' star's quick-thinking to down his stricken plane on a golf course instead of attempting to make it back to the nearby airport via a residential area most likely 'saved several lives'.
After decades in the acting game, it seems a little strange that 'Die Hard' star Bruce Willis has never graced the stage but all that is about to change - he's just signed on to make his Broadway debut in Stephen King's 'Misery'.
Leonard Nimoy, best known for acting as Dr Spock on 'Star Trek' and directing films such as 'Three Men and a Little Baby', died on Friday in California following a long battle with a pulmonary disease. He was 83.
'Birdman' was the big winner at this year's Oscars, taking home three of the major wins: Best Picture, Best Director and Best (Original) Screenplay. It meant that writer, director and producer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu walked away with three Oscars on the same night. The quirky film about actors also scooped Best Cinematography.
Following the roaring successes of 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Angels and Demons', the character of Robert Langdon is returning to the big screen with Tom Hanks dusting off the hair straighteners once again for the lead role and Oscar winning director Ron Howard back in charge of the production.
Oscar nominated 'Imitation Game' star Benedict Cumberbatch married on Valentine's Day, it has now been revealed.
The web of the 'Spider-Man' franchise has become increasingly tangled after mega studios Sony and Marvel agreed to a power sharing contract, effectively meaning that Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) could enter Marvel's Cinematic Universe (with his Avengers pals) but Sony still retains control.The web of the 'Spider-Man' franchise has become increasingly tangled after mega studios Sony and Marvel agreed to a power sharing contract, effectively meaning that Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) could enter Marvel's Cinematic Universe (with his Avengers pals) but Sony still retains control.
The BAFTAs have been awarded and 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' led the way after the quirky comedy racked up an incredible five gongs with 'Boyhood', 'The Theory of Everything' and 'Whiplash' following up with three a piece. 'Boyhood' scooped three of the biggest with Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actress going to Richard Linklater's 12 year labour of love.
'Fifty Shades of Grey', undoubtedly the most high profile erotic film drama of the year, has been given the seal of approval from the UK film censor board arriving fully uncut with an 18 certificate.
Actor Chris O'Dowd and his journalist and TV presenter wife Dawn O'Porter have announced the birth of their child but went against the usual conventions of gushing and posting typical photos.
A tragic accident on the set of Martin Scorsese's new film 'Silence' has left one man dead and two more (all in their 50s) injured.
The Oscar winning actor's easy-going persona evident over decades of film performances and chilled out concerts has won the Dude legions of abiders but now he's taken his trademark chilled out nature to a whole new level - he's recording an album of sleeping tapes to 'help you get a good night's rest'.