Grade • B+
DVD • The joy of Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln" is watching Daniel Day-Lewis' justly praised (and Oscar-winning) portrayal of the 16th president. Day-Lewis captures Lincoln's gift for homespun anecdotes, his sly political savvy, and his inner despair from Civil War death tolls and personal grief combining all that into a performance that's not just actorly details but heartfelt embodiment.
Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner surround that great performance with a riveting story of political gamesmanship, as Lincoln maneuvers to cajole Congress into passing the anti-slavery 13th Amendment. There are rich gems in Tommy Lee Jones' irascible Thaddeus Stephens, David Straithairn's cagey William Seward and a trio of wheeler-dealer lobbyists (James Spader, John Hawkes, and Tim Blake Nelson).
The movie's main failing is that it's too long, and ends with a rote depiction of Lincoln's death that doesn't do justice to Day-Lewis' heroic efforts to bring the man to life.
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