This film is, quite simply, misnamed.
It is not primarily about Abraham Lincoln at all. It is a film about the abolition of slavery in America in the mid 19th century. More particular than that it is about the passage through Congress of the 13th amendment to the constitution of the United States which would legally abolish slavery. That was undoubtedly a worthy and admirable endeavour. However, the depiction of the political machinations and horse trading involved by the director, Stephen Spielberg is stultifying. It is also a major miscalculation.
Abraham Lincoln was and is a towering figure in the psyche of America. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrJHPS4KyVA
We know that Lincoln, the real life character, cared deeply about the issue of slavery and ultimately paid for that conviction with his own life at the hands of an anti-abolitionist assassin. But where was the dramatic explanation of how this man arrived at this moral stance? What about his background, his motivations, his own personal journey. Surely that was the real story?
This film is more akin to a political documentary. Detail is piled upon detail until one finds oneself lost in the maze created by Spielberg.
There are seemingly interminable scenes describing the backgrounds and motivations of various congressmen who need to be bought off or speeches from Lincoln or members of his team about the progress of the bill.
The job of big budget film making is surely to entertain, to inspire and to wow an audience. A couple of hours out of the cinema and I had already forgotten chunks of what I had just seen and heard.
As for the quality of the central performance by Daniel Day Lewis, I am undecided. He is without question an amazing acting talent. But in this instance, he began with natural physical advantages. He is tall and rangy like Lincoln. He also has the same angular facial features. Put him in a dark suit, plonk on a stovepipe hat and a beard and the resemblance is remarkable. In addition, he undertakes a lot of speechifying in a thin reedy voice and occasionally shouts. Does all this amount to acting?
I really wanted to like this film but I left the cinema bludgeoned by facts, confused and ultimately, bored.
There is a great film to be made about Abraham Lincoln. This was not it.