Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Pvt. Ryan (1998), Munich (2005) and War Horse (2011) all prove Steven Spielberg can captivate moviegoers with history on screen. This month, he’s brought us a biodrama a decade in the making simply titled Lincoln. Starring U.K.-based method actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Abe during the year he pushed for the passing of the 13th constitutional amendment to ban slavery.
It’s 1865, President Lincoln has just been re-elected and the war between north and south rages on. He believes the best decision to end the war would also simultaneously create equality for mankind. But not everyone in the White House agrees, including Democratic Congressman Fernando Wood (Lee Pace) and a weary Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley). On Lincoln’s side are Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn), Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), Democratic operative William N. Bilbo (James Spader), and Col. Robert Latham (John Hawkes). At home, Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd (Sally Field) also face family drama as their eldest son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) insists on enlisting despite his parents’ resistance.
Like all Spielberg movies, Lincoln features talented, well-cast stars in both large and small roles. Day-Lewis offers a fine, studied portrayal of the man, but Field, Spader and Pace are the standouts in the film. Lincoln is a well-researched, stunning picture clearly made with respect and admiration from Spielberg, but in between the history and geography, it is slightly lacking in depth and charm.