Published November 22, 2012
Daniel Day-Lewis’ bravura performance in the title role is the highlight—but by no means the only asset—of director Steven Spielberg’s splendid historical drama. The plot focuses on the Civil War president’s passionate yet wily struggle, during the closing days of that conflict, to steer a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery through Congress. Aided by his secretary of state, William Seward (David Strathairn), but distracted by his troubled personal life—Sally Field plays his famously high-strung wife Mary—Lincoln uses rhetoric to win over his hesitant Cabinet and patronage to woo his opponents. The trajectory of the tale is, by its nature, uplifting, while Lincoln’s multifaceted personality—which encompassed idealism, political shrewdness, melancholy, humor and even a few endearing foibles—is vividly illuminated in Tony Kushner’s screenplay. The educational value and moral import of the film may make it acceptable for older adolescents. Intense but mostly bloodless battlefield violence, a scene involving severed limbs, cohabitation, about a dozen uses of profanity, racial slurs, a couple of rough terms, occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.