Steven Spielberg spent considerably longer making this film than Abraham Lincoln took to abolish slavery and bring about the end of the Civil War.
His patience and diligence has produced a film of undoubted quality, based loosely on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, but it also feels like a rather dry lecture.
Lincoln is restrained and detailed, and though it focuses on only a few months of Lincoln's working life in 1865, it reveals plenty about the revered 16th President. As the North and South are preparing to negotiate an end to the Civil War, Lincoln realises he has a small window of opportunity to pass the 13th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, outlawing slavery. He sets about rallying and bribing a bitterly divided Congress to achieve this.
The performances are excellent, from Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, to Tommy Lee Jones as world-weary "Radical Republican" Thaddeus Stevens, and James Spader as the political operative, the witty W.N. Bilbo.
It will be a surprise if Day-Lewis doesn't win the Oscar for Best Actor this year (he already has two, for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood). His academic approach to immersing himself in a character has produced a performance that is hard to fault, even when he has to deal with a melodramatic Sally Field playing his wife.
Performances aside, Spielberg gets caught up in his bid to give this historical figure the level of reverence he deserves.
The result is a lengthy and thoughtfully paced legislative drama that goes to great lengths to explain the political machinations that took place to pass the bill - in essence, it's a film filled with men talking in dark rooms.
Masterfully crafted as it is - and it certainly captures the man and a moment in time - Lincoln comes across as a pious history lesson, and, strangely for Spielberg, lacks the entertainment and emotion we may have expected.
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running time: 153 mins
Rating: M (violence and offensive language)
Verdict: A dry, detailed historical drama
- TimeOutBy Francesca Rudkin Email Francesca