Director: Steven Spielberg.
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Hal Holbrook.
Running Time: 2hrs 30mins.
STATESIDE, I think people are going into hyperdrive over this as it has everything to make it an instant hit with the Academy.
Indeed, Daniel Day Lewis probably started writing his Oscar acceptance speech before the script thudded onto his carpet.
It’s Spielberg’s take on the life of one of America’s greatest-ever presidents, Abraham Lincoln.
Though one cannot help questioning whether an ordinary black soldier could recite the Gettysburg Address from memory, this was a fine, if sometimes romantic, look at a particular point of the life of the 16th president.
The Civil War is raging in its fourth and final year and Lincoln is in trouble.
He’s trying to persuade enough members of the House of Representatives to back the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
In this, the film does throw up an interesting conundrum.
At one point, Lincoln is discussing with his cabinet that they are not at war with a different country — they are not even, strictly speaking, at war with the south.
They are at war with a section of the population living in the south.
And Lincoln doesn’t recognise those people’s right to hold another human being in bondage.
But he has used legal recourse at his disposal to free slaves by using slave laws which are upheld by the rebels.
The film’s main weakness is it tends to deify Lincoln and not portray in him the frailties of a human being.
So, it can seem like Lincoln was acting more or less alone in wanting to free the slaves as even his own cabinet argues with him that it is not the time to wage this battle — including William Seward, his secretary of state (excellently played by David Strathairn).
But a strong cast with sterling acting saves Spielberg from himself.