Steven Spielberg’s biopic of Abraham Lincoln concentrates entirely on his final years as he struggled to push through the 13th amendment to abolish slavery, his greatest achievement and one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history.
This makes for an interesting snapshot of history in action as it shows the back room dealings and horse-trading that are the stuff of politics even now, very much like a kind of “wild West Wing”. Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of the man as a softly spoken, thoughtful man of the people is extremely watchable, although Tommy Lee Jones puts in a scene-stealing performance as a radical political firebrand and James Spader adds more character and some mild comic relief as one of Lincoln’s back room “fixers”. Spielberg’s approach is suitably reverential and so I’m sure rose-tinted glasses were in play, but it avoids syrup and plays out rather like a courtroom drama, with more than a nod towards 12 Angry Men as he addresses the prejudices of his opposition one by one.
It does have a very stagy feel because of the limited locations and action junkies will find it rather dry and verbose, but to anyone with an interest in history and politics will find it interesting stuff, although somewhat more edutaining than entertaining.