Lincoln is a transcendent movie about a transcendent figure who is the nearest thing to a god America ever produced. Perhaps in a thousand years President Abraham Lincoln will be the only thing for which America is remembered. And with this definitive film about him Daniel Day-Lewis owns the role for all time. An incomparable movie.
Often, movies of this type come off as too much hagiography, but I hardly think that’s possible if the subject is Lincoln, a singular man for whom our praise can never be enough. And Spielberg deftly gives us the proper amount of holy worshipfulness to shroud the character, while at the same time allowing us to see him as, yes, a human being who struggled with doubt, and who was fully aware that to accomplish great things he had to do some unsavory business.
Abraham Lincoln towers over all other presidents and, indeed, over all other Americans who have ever lived, because he was singularly aware not only of his times, but of himself. “Are we fitted to the times,” Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln wonders, while now in retrospect we understand that Lincoln fitted the times to him, and more importantly, more than any of our founding fathers, helped to create America – the United States of America – and define our place in the world and our place in history.
I grew up loving the study of history, and in that study came to feel that Abraham Lincoln may have been the greatest man who ever lived. I also became a fawning fan of Steven Spielberg, whose Close Encounters opened my young eyes to the meaning of awe and wonder. And then there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, who astounds me with his talent and who always devastated me in the climax of his version of The Crucible. So mix all those things together and no one should be surprised that Lincoln was my most eagerly anticipated film of the year.
This is one of Spielberg’s crowning achievements, surely to take its place alongside Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. And if anyone else ever tries to portray seriously Lincoln the man, that portrayal will be judged according to the standard set by Day-Lewis, and the movie by the standard set by Lincoln.