Day-lewis shows great re­straint in per­for­mance

LIN­COLN (12A)

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE -

STEVEN SPIEL­BERG art­fully tears a page from his­tory to im­mor­talise the ef­forts of the 16th pres­i­dent of the United States to abol­ish slav­ery dur­ing a tur­bu­lent pe­riod of deep di­vi­sion within the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. At a time when mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is trot­ted out ad nau­seum by politi­cians as mod­ern so­ci­ety's badge of hon­our, Lin­coln is a stark re­minder of the sins of the past and how far we still have to go to cre­ate a world of true equal­ity.

Tony Kush­ner's elo­quent script con­denses the fi­nal months of the pres­i­dent's life into an ele­giac por­trait of a hus­band and fa­ther whose courage in the eye of a po­lit­i­cal storm tested his re­solve and his mar­riage. The ebb and flow of di­a­logue is ex­quis­ite, and po­ten­tially dense and baf­fling philoso­phies are dis­tilled into di­gestible ex­po­si­tion so it's easy to fol­low the cut and thrust of ar­gu­ments on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide.

A ter­rific en­sem­ble cast is led mag­nif­i­cently by Daniel DayLewis. So of­ten be­rated for grand-stand­ing and chew­ing scenery, here the stat­uesque Lon­don-born Ir­ish ac­tor is the model of re­straint, in­ter­nal­is­ing his states­man's mael­strom of emo­tions. His per­for­mance is no less af­fect­ing, and the phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion is star­tling, but our eyes are con­stantly drawn to him be­cause of that quiet in­ten­sity in a sea of scream­ing, shout­ing brow-beat­ers.

A pow­er­ful pro­logue on blood-stained bat­tle­fields segues neatly to Jan­uary 1865. Two months have passed since Lin­coln's re-elec­tion, the Amer­i­can Civil War rages on for a fourth year and the pres­i­dent's thoughts turn to the highly con­tentious slav­ery bill.

Sec­re­tary Of State Wil­liam H Se­ward (David Strathairn) coun­sels against the mo­tion, given the cur­rent make-up of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. “It's a rat's nest in there, the same gang of tal­ent­less hicks and hacks that re­jected the amend­ment 10 months back. We'll lose!”

How­ever, Lin­coln is adamant that the Bill must be passed be­fore the end of the war and he en­lists Wil­liam N Bilbo (James Spader) and Colonel Robert Latham (John Hawkes) to pro­cure votes. “It's not il­le­gal to bribe con­gress­men. They starve oth­er­wise,” jokes Latham.

In­side the House, fer­vent abo­li­tion­ist Thad­deus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) con­tin­ues to rile the Demo­crat op­po­si­tion led by Fer­nando Wood (Lee Pace). Mean­while, Lin­coln con­tends with the mood swings of his emo­tion­ally frag­ile wife (Sally Field), who is so of­ten his rock.

Lin­coln is a mag­nif­i­cent tech­ni­cal achieve­ment, distin­guished by Janusz Kamin­ski's colour-bleached cine­matog­ra­phy and John Wil­liams's haunt­ing score. Ev­ery shot is beau­ti­fully framed, cap­tur­ing ev­ery facet of Rick Carter's pro­duc­tion de­sign and Joanna John­ston's cos­tumes, which evoke the era so vividly.

Ad­mit­tedly, the run­ning time is slightly long, test­ing our con­cen­tra­tion and phys­i­cal re­solve. Yet, as the film ends with Lin­coln head­ing to an ill-fated per­for­mance of Our Amer­i­can Cousin, we give Spiel­berg's film a rous­ing vote of con­fi­dence.

Daniel Day-Lewis (cen­tre) as Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln, David Strathairn as Sec­re­tary of State Wil­liam Se­ward (right) and David Costa­bile as Rep­re­sen­ta­tive James Ash­ley (left).

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