On Friday I saw Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.
The last few months of Abraham Lincoln's life are often overshadowed by stories of his famous assassination at Ford's Theatre. In Steven Spielberg's new film, the months leading up to that event take center stage.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays the popular president in the most historically accurate way possible: hunched over, soft-spoken and thoughtful. According to the scholars, Mr. Lincoln was all of those things.
What's so brilliant about this performance is that his humanity, and his elegant simplicity, shines through. Lincoln was a common man from humble beginnings, and his gift for knowing 'real' people is part of what made him a great politician.
The film shows the president's struggle to get the 13th Amendment passed as his son threatens to go off to war and his wife Mary (Field) forbids it, having already lost one son to the country. Field's performance as the 'crazy' First Lady is played less hysterically than one might expect, and that's what makes it work.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a convincing young Robert Todd Lincoln, and the rest of the supporting cast: David Strathairn, John Hawkes and Tommy Lee Jones, all work their magic as the movers and shakers of the time.
The usual Spielberg-ian grandeur is traded in this time for what mimics a quiet stage performance, and that makes sense since the screenwriter, Tony Kushner, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
If you're looking for a Civil War-era film with action, this isn't the movie for you; but if you want to see some of the most impressive acting of the year, coupled with a slice of history often forgotten, you need to see Lincoln.