Directed By: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris, John Hawkes, and David Oyelowo

"We must cure ourselves of slavery. This amendment is that cure. We’re stepped out upon the world stage now with the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood's been spilled to afford us this moment.  Now!  Now!  Now!"
-President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis)

Earlier this week, we the American people (at least half of us) reelected President Barack Hussein Obama II for a second term in office.  What that means for our 44th president is that there's still work to be done in a highly divided nation, and he’s got four more years.  We may be the United States of America, but there are certainly red states and blue states.  Ultimately, the President will face an extremely tumultuous political landscape as he confronts some of the largest challenges facing the nation today.  While the United States faces a unique set of challenging circumstances, the greatest challenge for the President is gaining a consensus within Congress on how to address these issues.  President Obama is not the first president to face a divided Congress and a divided nation, and he certainly won't be the last.  That's the nature of our democracy. 

With the election hitting a fever pitch this year, Hollywood has put out several big films with political overtones.  Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty will directly explore the pursuit and execution of the world's most infamous terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.  Ben Affleck's Argo addresses the Iran Hostage Crisis of the 70s, something that's very much akin to attack on the American embassy in Libya several months ago.  Finally, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln takes a look at our beloved 16th president after his reelection for a second term in the White House and examines his efforts to get Congress to ratify the 13th Amendment and abolish slavery in the final months of the Civil War and his presidency.  With Obama's reelection, Lincoln may be the film with the most political symbolism despite Spielberg's indication of just the opposite.

President Abraham Lincoln (Day-Lewis) has just been reelected to a second term in office, and he's focused on getting the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution ratified by the states loyal to the Union throughout the war.  The amendment would outlaw slavery in the United States.  The problem is that many of the white men in the House of Representatives, clinging to power and prejudice, are not just averse to the notion of freeing black people; they outright hate it and are putting their energy into blocking it.  For President Lincoln, it doesn't help that his own cabinet doesn't even support him in this endeavor.  He does, however, have the enduring support of his wife, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field).

The nation is embroiled in the Civil War.  More than 600,000 people have lost their lives in this bloody conflict.  Peace is coming, and Congress is divided on party lines on how to handle the Reconstruction and the possibility of abolition.  With the help of Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn), the President is able to rally support from Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones).  By secretly beginning peace negotiations with the Confederacy, Lincoln also garners the support of influential Republican politician Francis Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook).  He still does not have enough support within the House to get the amendment passed and has Seward turn to do the dirty work of politics and get enough Democrats to vote for the amendment, a nearly impossible task altogether.

Lincoln is certainly a film with quite a bit of political symbolism.  At a time when our politics are as divisive as they've ever been in modern US history, taking a look back at the time when the nation was as divided as it has ever been might not be such a bad idea.  Watching a reelected President Lincoln, who just happens to be a lawyer from Illinois like President Obama, highlights some incredible parallels between the politics of the 1860s and the politics of today.  Lincoln's agenda is about fairness and people getting an equal shot in America regardless of their racial background.  Congress is polarized and doesn't do a damn thing, and the last thing they're going to do is bring the President's goals to fruition regardless of whether they're morally obligated to do so.  That's all too familiar to us these days.

Fresh from The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse less than a year ago, director Steven Spielberg has certainly been busy over the last couple of years.  While War Horse holds a special place in my heart, Spielberg now has a film that may be his first successful awards darling since Saving Private RyanLincoln gives us this larger-than-life figure in our 16th President.  It's filled with some of the richest dialogue I've seen in any film this year.  It's a history lesson loaded with lots of biting commentary on the state of Capitol Hill today.  Ultimately, the movie is a deft exploration of the politics behind the passing of the 13th Amendment.  With the Spielberg treatment, Lincoln is obviously a strong yet sentimental period piece with lots of gorgeous cinematography, quite a bit of wholesome humor, and another impressive score from the great John Williams.

As Abraham Lincoln, British actor Daniel Day-Lewis has cemented himself as an icon of American cinema.  Over the years, he's portrayed Native American Hawkeye, New York mobster Bill "The Butcher" Cutting, oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, and now our nation's 16th President.  I dare say we've stolen this fine actor from the Brits!  On a more serious note, his performance as Lincoln is undeniably masterful.  He brings wisdom, a sense of political brilliance, and a moral compass to the character.  These are things we all think of when we hear the name Abraham Lincoln.  From his sheer physical presence with an uncanny makeup job to the countless rich stories and adages that he tells so effortlessly like a wise old grandfather, Day-Lewis really captures the essence of Lincoln, at least how most of us would imagine him based on the history books.  While this is not my favorite performance from Lewis, it is still something incredible to watch him in action.

As First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Sally Field commands our attention every moment she's on screen.  Field gives a layered performance in which her character gives President Lincoln the steadfast support he needs at times and pushes him to his emotional limits at others.  Field is a delight to watch on screen as she gives one of her best performances in recent memory.  As Representative Thaddeus Stevens, Tommy Lee Jones gets to do exactly what he's best at on the big screen these days, portray a grumpy, sarcastic old man.  He gets to bring that fiery elder presence to the House of Representatives and to portray one of the most influential Congressmen of all time.  Beyond Field and Jones, other standouts in the supporting cast are David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln.

I came into Lincoln with incredibly high expectations.  After all, it's a Steven Spielberg movie, and the beloved director has brought together one of the most star-studded casts I've seen in years.  Headlining this cast we've got Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones.  With this in mind, I have every right to expect great things going into the film.  Having seen it, I can definitely say that Lincoln is a great movie, but it doesn't quite live up to the hype.  No matter how great a filmmaker and a cast the film has, Lincoln can't escape the fact that it's a movie about one of the most famous men to have walked this Earth and that we all know the history very, very well.  Because of this, it’s hard for this movie at times to stray from textbook history and feel like something more.

With all this in mind, Lincoln is still a solid film from a master filmmaker.  With great direction and powerful performances from the cast, Lincoln gets a 0.03% rating.  Grab a few wine coolers before you check out Old Abe on the big screen.