Although it’s weighed down by the “full Spielberg” treatment – not to mention the gravity of the US Civil War and the issue of racial inequality – Steven Spielberg’s dramatization of the last months of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency is made immediate by Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in the title role. The action centers around Lincoln’s 1865 push to get the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, passed through an incredibly divided and bumptious Congress as the War Between the States was coming to an end. We’re treated to every wrinkle of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, featuring flavorful character playing by a huge cast including Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Sally Field, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Hal Holbrook, et al. Spielberg doesn’t spare the obvious John Ford touches nor his usual overstatement, but it’s Day-Lewis’ Lincoln that makes the difference. We end up believing in the actor, in Lincoln himself, and his mission, if not exactly the self-imposed pomp and circumstance of the history lesson. And yet, what other filmmaker would have the gall to tackle this? Screenplay by Tony Kushner, adapting Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book (149 min.)
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Pomp and circumstance.