Review by Pete Mason
If you are looking for a bio of Abraham Lincoln and his life story, you’ll have to wait. This is a film of how the 38th lame duck Congress worked to pass the 13th Amendment, pushed through by Lincoln in advance of the foreseeable end of the Civil War, showing how government works, how it should work and how it once worked. Ending the historical blemish of slavery was viewed by Lincoln as an historical imperative, one that was come upon by the founders some 90 years prior with the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. Like the founders, Lincoln is a man and not a mythic legend or one who was greater than those around him. Instead, all these men: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Franklin and others, they were not demi-gods but human beings who, in acting in the best interests of their country and its future, would be revered later in history. Yes, they did great things, but all – Lincoln included – were flawed, ordinary men, just as we all are today. Lincoln struggles with his conscience and conflict from others to form his super-majority to get the amendment out of the House of Representatives and off to the states, where the amendment was assured passage by the necessary 3/4 margin.
Throughout the film, Lincoln gives great speeches and appears as a ghost at times, a specter when not in consultation with others. Lincoln is a ghost when walking the halls or alone in thought, his words still burning today. This is another fine acting job by Daniel Day Lewis and an Oscar nomination, if not third win is assured. He speaks in a soft, slightly nasal tone, one different than the Lincoln I was previously familiar with, from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Lewis’ tall stature makes him the focus of any scene, whether seated or rising to impose his being on those around him. At 6’4″ and appearing taller with his speech-lined hat, Lincoln is the main player of the film but not its focus, for the passage of the amendment itself is the true focus.