Lincoln (2012), directed by Steven Spielberg

Spielberg, Spielberg, Spielberg…

What an interesting presence in the world of film Mr. Spielberg has become. Once the Golden Boy who basically invented the summer blockbuster and, let’s face it, defined most of our childhoods one way or another (Indiana Jones, E.T., Jurassic Park, Jaws), he is now, to many, the hated dinosaur of cinema.

And in some ways, fair enough. War Horse was horrendous. The fourth Indy movie was nearly as bad. Tintin was OK, but nothing fabulous.

But he has still directed more important, and excellent, Hollywood movies than anyone else I can think of. And he’s not completely obsolete, Munich was a great film. And that was only seven years ago…

Anyway, among the people I know there is usually a collective rolling of the eyes whenever a new Spielberg movie comes out.

Lincoln might not shut the detractors up but I’d like to put out there that it’s a pretty excellent movie and rather restrained and levelheaded for Mr. Spielberg.

In fact if anyone has any complaints it would probably be that Lincoln is a little dull and quiet. Typically Spielberg is the master of emotional manipulation, but Lincoln plays out more like a political procedural than a majestic celebration of all things Abe.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some flourishes, and Spielberg’s respect and admiration for the man clearly shines through, which is fair enough. But I never gagged on it. And that’s saying something for old Stevie.

In fact, as someone who doesn’t know much about Lincoln, I would say I learned more about his background from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter than Lincoln. Except I’m pretty sure all that vampire stuff was dramatic license. I’m not really sure.

People have asked me if I would recommend it and I think that’s a tough call. For anyone interested in Lincoln, or interested in the history of American politics, it is an excellent movie I would recommend highly. I can’t say I’ve seen such a detailed and focused movie about the passing of a constitutional amendment before.

That being said, if that sounds tremendously boring to you, it will be. In fact, naming the film Lincoln is a bit of a misnomer in ways. The film should really be called The 13th Amendment, because that’s what it’s about. It’s about the amendment to end slavery and all of the political ins and outs, some above board, some under, that went on to have it passed. It was a close one, folks.

And yet it is about Lincoln because Spielberg uses this small part of his history, taking place roughly over the course of a month, to illustrate what kind of a person and leader Lincoln was. We don’t see the buildup of what made Lincoln Lincoln, but we see the man in his prime, doing what he needs to to get a bill he believes in passed.

Daniel Day-Lewis is, as ever, excellent and completely inhabits the role. I had to remind myself a couple of times that it was even Day-Lewis I was watching up there. He’s one of those Deep Actors who really gets into the role, and the result here is a superb, never flashy, and completely believable performance. He turns a legend into a man and yet wholly demonstrates his place in history and the reasons for the admiration he so rightfully earned.

I almost hate to give a Spielberg movie a positive review, but I have to here. I liked that it was so focused, so committed to detail and providing a full picture of its subject. It avoided the emotional claptrap that drags most Spielberg pictures into sentimental rubbish. It’s levelheaded and honest, kind of like Lincoln I suppose.

Again, because of its narrow focus, it won’t be for everyone. I love history, so I got swept up in it. It’s not a revelation of a movie, it isn’t pushing the medium in any way, but it is an excellent use of it.

It inspired me to learn more about Lincoln, which is probably exactly what Spielberg intended. Well done, Sir.

Lincoln is in cinemas now.