• Lincoln does contain some battle scenes (the two minutes of Civil War fighting during the opening are hardly Saving Private Ryan), and the film is about Abraham Lincoln of course, but Steven Spielberg’s main interest in the film is telling the story of the thirteenth amendment- more so than telling the story of war or of a traditional biopic about a great man.
  • Lincoln does stand as one of the most intelligent films ever made about politics.

Thirteen minutes into the film there is a heavenly frame—nineteenth century lamps, firelight- the door is perfectly ajar with Lincoln’s son sleeping.

  • Daniel Day-Lewis in the titular role deserves the praise heaped upon him for his work here. This is just one of two films he made during the 2010s (Phantom Thread in 2017) making his brilliance/per role average higher in the 2010s than it was in the 2000s when he made four films. This is far from a one-man show though. The ensemble is splitting at the seams with talented actors. There are no small roles: Adam Driver is working the wire, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, David Oyelowo, James Spader, Jared Harris, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bill Camp and so on are in the mix- it could fill up this page it seems to list all the capable actors. Tommy Lee Jones’ work though is second to Day-Lewis. Tommy Lee Jones is a big enough (in a role Hackman gets in the 1990s maybe) to stand up to Day-Lewis and not be severely outweighed or overshadowed.

at several points in the film the actors are shot in front of the windows to capture a miraculous silhouette effect

there is a visual consistency here that would commonly be found in a Fincher film– and an excellent one at that

  • Early in the film Spielberg’s camera slowly tracks in on Day-Lewis speaking about slaves, property and the law—it is a riveting monologue- Tony Kushner’s screenplay is boldly intellectual. This is a screenplay worthy of printing out and reading without the actors, music and direction. Dialogue like “he seems jumpy…perhaps he’ll jump”- and captivating verbal sparring throughout.
  • At the 53-minute mark from Willie’s Room- the light in the windows making for a silhouette of Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field (as Mary Todd). Field does solid work- the role calls for a big, emotional performance- but she is a decade too here- I do wonder what Holly Hunter could have done with the role.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a small role as one Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert. JGL is just one of the many actors that make Lincoln perhaps the greatest cast assembled for any film during the 2010s.

  • At the 122-minute mark the bells of victory sound as the amendment passes – the white windows make for a sublime cinematic painting not much different from Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980).

Rick Carter’s production design won many of the awards in 2012 and justifiably so- his past resume includes A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Avatar.

On a few occasions Spielberg stages the actors perfectly to make breathtaking compositions out of the collective (including Lincoln’s death in his bed with the small crowd gathered).

  • Highly Recommend / Must See border- perhaps even leaning more to the Must-See side with some time to digest.