|Daniel Day-Lewis goes for a third Oscar.|
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg
Written by Tony Kushner (screenplay); Doris Kearns Goodwin (book)
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, and Tommy Lee Jones
***1/2 (Original rating: ***)
Lincoln is yet another Oscar grab attempt with yet another biopic. Films like this will always be made, but many of them are forgettable. This is somewhere in between. With the Civil War dwindling, President Abraham Lincoln (Day-Lewis) attempts to push the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through Congress, thus ending slavery. He receives the help of Thaddeus Stevens (Jones) and other political allies as he tries to bring the nation together in a step towards racial equality and, of course, the end of the war. To do this, he must get enough Democrats to vote for the amendment, which takes some dealings behind the scenes to accomplish. With his wife Mary (Field) by his side, he talks and talks and talks, inspiring those who surround him until the job is done. But Lincoln remains a mystery, even after the last shot fades to black.
Spielberg's latest film is one of words and deeds, with some flashy cinematography and solid performances thrown in for good measure. There are speeches galore, and Lincoln always has a rousing anecdote or a ready metaphor for his weary fellows. As you've no doubt heard, Daniel Day-Lewis gives a great performance, as the virtuous, kind, heavily burdened father of the American nation during the Civil War. Jones and Field are appropriately praised, but the large supporting cast, consisting of numerous character actors, deliver fine work with minimal screen time. Given the period aspect of the film, the production design and costumes are eye-catching, and John Williams' score is his typical sentimental undercurrent. (More War Horse than Schindler's List.) The film keeps the words flowing until a sudden and rather anticlimactic ending. While it is far from bad, it stays more along the lines of decent to mediocre. Admirable performances and good production values abound, but the film never feels as important as its subject matter.
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Field), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing