Complete A-Z list



Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace, David Strathairn, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Hal Holbrook, Walton Goggins, Tim Blake Nelson, Gloria Reuben, Jared Harris, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Oyelowo, Bruce McGill, Lukas Haas, Gregory Itzin, S Epatha Merkerson

Director: Steven Spielberg

Eearly in this lengthy film, seemingly a favourite to take the Best Picture Oscar, Day-Lewis's carefully conceived and executed, and attention-holding Abraham Lincoln says with a chuckle that 'I'd like to write shorter sermons, but I'm too lazy to stop.'

That same accusation might apply very well to screenwriter Tony Kushner. Words, words, words: the shooting script for this 'chamber' epic must have weighed a ton. Too bad many of them are as arid as the atmosphere inside the US House of Representatives in 1865 as they discuss the President's famous amendment that will lead to the abolition of slavery.

But, to be sure, there is much to admire in Spielberg's film, as Lincoln fights to end the bloody four-year Civil War, as well as resolving the slavery question, leavening his rhetoric with crackerbarrel stories about people from his past.

The period reconstruction is staggering in its seeming accuracy, and the performances of Day-Lewis, Field (as his wife), Pace (as a youthful political adversary), Gordon-Levitt as the president's older son and Strathairn as his secretary of state make the most of what the screenplay has to offer.

Combat scenes are short but appropriately messy, and the full horror of war is conveyed without resorting to extreme violence. If only they'd pruned and sharpened that darned script.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
149 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 19 Jan 2013