In 1865 Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is re-elected President of the United States and the war between North and South still rages on. But instead of focusing solely on ending the war, Abe battles to push the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery, through the House of Representatives.
As Democrats and Republicans debate loudly and not very nicely, Lincoln assigns his secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) to hire ‘enforcers’ to sway the wavering House voters.
But Lincoln also has to deal with his emotionally unstable wife Mary (Sally Field), his rambunctious young son Tad (Guiver McGrath) and his oldest son’s, Robert (Joseph Gordon Levitt), fight for emancipation.
Although all the actors in Lincoln are superb, especially Tommy Lee Jones as the persistent and persuasive Thaddeus Stevens, the film is long and more often then not the witty debates seem repetitive and do not really drive the plot forward. As we all know the outcome Lincoln lacks suspense and even though the gritty filming does lend an air of reality it also makes the scenes dark and gray.
Lincoln is like a tug of war between director Stephen Spielberg and his cinematic view and the interwoven script by writer Tony Kushner. And as most of the scenes take place in closed off rooms, the crowded House of Representatives, darkened rooms in the White House and small hospital wards, Lincoln often feels claustrophobic, stifled. However this is could possibly be the outward appearance of the inner struggles of Lincoln himself.
As a European you can’t help but wonder if the Golden Globe hype, five nominations but only one win, and Oscar predictions surrounding this epic film of the sixteenth president, has more to do with the subject matter than with the actual film itself. And even though Lincoln is far from being a bad film, it may just not be everyone’s taste.