“Trust? Gentlemen, you seem to have forgotten that our chosen career is politics.”
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and David Strathairn
President Abraham Lincoln is fighting to get the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution passed, which would formally abolish slavery in America. Worrying that the Civil War was going to end within the next month, causing the slaves freed in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to be re-enslaved, Lincoln fights against the clock and members of his Cabinet to get the votes he needs to pass this bill.
This biopic looks at President Abraham Lincoln’s persistent efforts throughout January 1865, and is a beautifully shot and crafted account of the ins-and-outs of the politics behind passing the Thirteenth Amendment.
Daniel Day-Lewis was brilliant as the President. He did what all actors try to do, he became his character. I didn’t ever really feel like I was watching Lewis on the screen but instead, I got so caught up in his performance it felt like it really was Lincoln up there. Everything, down to his face and mannerisms were spot on. Lewis always gives his all so it didn’t surprise me that he has done it once again here, it was a great casting choice and I couldn’t see anyone else in this role that could have portrayed Lincoln so well.
Sally Field gave a knockout performance as Mary Todd Lincoln, the woman behind the man. Her devotion for her husband is evident and Field really captures this essence. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, the Republican politician strongly in favour of the abolition of slavery, was another great to watch. Performances from David Strathairn as William Seward, the secretary of state, Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln also gave notable performances.
While some scenes with Levitt felt a bit unnecessary, and probably added minutes to the film that could have been easily cut, I think they were needed to show that there was more to Lincoln. It allowed for us to see he was more than just a politician, and certainly showed how compassionate he was as a person. I’m not saying Levitt didn’t play his part well because I think he did, just that the story he brought with him wasn’t all that necessary to the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Spielberg has really caught the essence of what made Lincoln such a likeable President and the film ran so smoothly, at an even pace and with a subtle suspense, it was really enjoyable to watch. For what it was, I did think the film was a little long. It didn’t need to be 2 hours 30 minutes but it would seem Spielberg wasn’t in a rush to tell this story. It’s not always a bad thing, but audiences have a film attention span of about 2 hours these days, so he needs to be a little careful with losing them if his chosen genre isn’t ‘high-paced thriller’.
This film is a thorough look at President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery in America. As one of the most historical events in America, the film might not have done complete justice to how hard Lincoln fought for what he believed, but by jove it tried. It’s probably the best account of Lincoln’s efforts to pass this Amendment and while it was a bit long in places, seeing more of Daniel Day-Lewis on screen just about made up for it.
Star rating: 7.5/10
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Running time 150 minutes.