“Lincoln” enthralls viewers, still time to view before film leaves theaters

Colin Gregory, Staff Writer

Making a film about our sixteenth president, one that is entrenched in as much legend and revere as any American figure, cannot be easy. So of course you want Steven Spielberg directing, and Daniel Day-Lewis playing the icon.
And honestly, it’s impossible to start a review of “Lincoln” without marveling at Day-Lewis’ performance. He doesn’t just portray Lincoln, he channels him. He’s every bit as good that you knew he would be, and then some. Combined with the hype, a performance this good is hard to imagine not winning the Best Actor statue; Lewis took it home back in 2007 for his momentous and flooring turn in “There Will Be Blood.”
I wouldn’t call “Lincoln” itself flooring, but it is a quietly enthralling and massively compelling portrayal of history vividly coming alive.
The plot of the movie is essentially trying to get a piece of legislation passed; not an easy task to make exciting. However, that piece of legislation just so happens to be the 13th amendment, the one that would free the slaves.
Joining the cause in favor of the amendment is Lincoln’s secretary of state (David Strathairn, quietly brilliant) and an abolitionist named Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones).
Jones is terrific as the sharp witted, acid-tongued debate lover. He can make you laugh and wince in succession in what is a truly great performance.
As well as dealing with vehement opposition to the bill, Honest Abe grapples with inner torment caused by a wife (Sally Field) whose sanity is hanging by a thread. After losing one of her sons at an early age, she is horrified with the idea of her eldest son, Robert (the superb Joseph Gordon-Levitt), joining the northern cause for the Civil War, the bloodiest in American history.
Field is splendid and brutally good as Mary Todd, putting together a performance that puts Todd’s inner demons on full display. An unforgettable scene where the presidential couple argues with one another brings out the worst in their characters and the best in the actors portraying them.
Though you know basically what happens (the slaves are freed, the war ends, Lincoln gets shot), the ride getting there is one ripe with hefty drama and raw emotion. Lincoln is unmissable because Spielberg makes history exciting and very much alive.
Does the film drag a bit during its exposition? A little, seeing that it takes two and a half hours until the credits roll.
It’s worth the lengthy ride however, as seeing an American legend portrayed in a performance that is perfect in every detail is worth the price of admission.
The film is at it’s best when delving into Lincoln as a human, vulnerabilities and all. Abe wasn’t perfect, but he was a truly great figure; it’s doubtful that any actor alive but Lewis could do justice to him.
Like hopping in a time machine, “Lincoln” puts the textbooks to shame. It’s a grand film on every level.