Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated move stars Daniel Day Lewis Discuss this article

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The combination of Steven Spielberg and America’s most beloved President might seem like a recipe for sentimentality. But the surprisingly spare, riveting Lincoln is after something more complex. At once a further mythologising of Honest Abe and an absorbing demystification of 19th century politics, it’s one of the most mature films Spielberg has made.

While the director has planned a Lincoln project for a decade, and the finished film credits Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 Team of Rivals as a source, Lincoln works from fewer than 90 pages of her 750-page book. Process-minded, it focuses almost exclusively on the events of January 1865, as the 16th President (Day-Lewis) covertly delays a truce with the South to pass the slavery-ending 13th Amendment in the House.

If the script’s declamatory style sometimes gives Lincoln a theatrical feel, Day-Lewis’s high-pitched Kentucky twang drowns out the creaks of the floorboards. The actor’s folksy, uncannily lived-in portrayal thankfully provides a warm counterpoint to the cerebral proceedings.

Lincoln is less a literal history than a work that uses a historical moment to meditate on grand themes. It reminds us that there is no halcyon age of politics, and that even an act as self-evidently righteous as outlawing slavery was forged through compromise, backroom deals and legal loopholes. All politics involves facing an uncertain future.

By Ben Kenigsberg
Time Out Doha,


  • Duration: 150
  • Released: Thu, 31 Jan
  • Classification: PG15
  • Language: English
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones

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