PG, 150 minutes
Tommy Lee Jones; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Daniel Day Lewis; Sally Field
"Lincoln" is a grave and surprisingly subtle magic trick, conjuring the past and an almost ridiculously impressive figure in ways that transcend art direction and the right stovepipe hat. Director Steven Spielberg's latest combines the most commonly shared notions we have of our 16th U.S. president — the folksy deliberation, the spindly gait, the all-seeing eye on the prize of history remade — with the behavior, idiosyncrasies and contradictions of an actual human being. It blends cinematic Americana with something grubbier and more interesting than Americana, and it does not look, act or behave like the usual perception of a Spielberg epic. It is smaller and quieter than that.
There is pomp, yes, and the historical circumstance could scarcely be more formidable. Based on parts of the Doris Kearns Goodwin book "Team of Rivals," "Lincoln" focuses tightly on the final four months of its subject's life and his political maneuvering in support of the 13th Amendment's abolition of slavery, just as the Civil War was grinding to a close. It's a fascinating backroom movie, hushed and intimate. Now and then the drama takes a back seat to the rhetoric. But this is one of the canniest explorations of a political animal in recent memory.
The animal in question is played by Daniel Day-Lewis in a performance both iconic and gloriously human.
Michael Phillips-Chicago Tribune