Lincoln, rated PG-13

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jackie Earle Haley

Austin Family critical rating: 5 of 5 stars
Austin Family family-friendly rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say that I’ve been looking forward to Lincoln for many years would be a massive understatement. This is the film I was hoping Steven Spielberg would make right after his masterful Munich (2005), and now, seven years later, Spielberg has given us one of the richest and most extraordinary films of his career.

Lincoln is a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln in the months leading up to the end of the Civil War, with emphasis placed on the congressional fight to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the US. Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner (who has written the most complex, dense and thoughtful script of this year) are careful to examine the moral grey areas in Lincoln’s decision-making, and the film’s presentation of the democratic process is fittingly chaotic.

The central performance by Day-Lewis as Lincoln is impeccable. Where Lincoln excels better than any Spielberg film, however, is in the supporting ensemble – every new scene comes alive with rich characterizations by many of the finest working character actors. Acting nominations are in order for David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward; Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; James Spader as political lobbyist W.N. Bilbo; and especially Tommy Lee Jones, who, as radical abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, gives a thunderous performance that is both endlessly quotable and quietly moving. Day-Lewis’ Lincoln is a gentle and articulate man not without his own doubts and uncertainties. This is a beautifully understated performance that will likely earn Day-Lewis his third Oscar.

Lincoln belongs in the same tier as Schindler’s List, Minority Report, Jaws and Munich: as a genuine Spielberg masterpiece.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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