Absorbing and exciting, and dominated as everyone has been saying by an unreal performance by Daniel Day Lewis – even less real after I saw the actual actor getting an award. And the voice is at least as important as his crane-like posture.
Spielberg has nearly got away with an Aristotelian coup: taking one episode (the passing of the amendment outlawing slavery) and diversifying that to represent (and look back & forward) to the rest of his presidency. For he does need to do that, the sweep needs to be big: the film, appearing at this time, is clearly intended to be A Significant Moment in Cinema: firstly it’s near the end of Spielberg’s colossal career, and secondly the racial theme and the dominance of a rhetorically towering president make this a Celebration of Obama.
I said Spielberg “nearly” gets away with it, for he falls at the last hurdle into the trap of chronicling events merely because they happened and were important, not because they fit the artistic unity of the film. I’m talking about Lincoln’s assassination, which while watching I was hoping wouldn’t be included, but there it is at the end. Shame, as the long shot of Lincoln walking away down some stairs in the gloom would have been far more memorable; the film suffers from a final spurt of national-story-ism.
And it’s nice to see Hollywood finally acknowledge my kinsman: one of my father’s mother’s family (the Cogmans) emigrated in the 1600s and prudently married into Abe’s lot (vide 1627):


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