Pure cinema it is not, but this Lincoln is a sly one. As gripping as the back-room machinations of the 13th Amendment are (and they aren’t), Spielberg and Kushner have made a slow, stagy film: I don’t trust any movie this verbose (be it the surrender at Appomattox, or Lincoln’s ride through a field strewn with corpses, the best bits are silent). And some scenes are pat in their desire to be fresh (using, for example, the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s death as we may not expect {corners to the movie though they are}). Still, Hollywood makes too few literate epics, and this one takes a serious subject seriously. Suiting himself to the scale and tone of the film, Daniel Day-Lewis drives it.  This Lincoln barely escapes the martyrdom it would have him wear. He is a wheeler, a dealer, a true politician; and he loves to command a room (i.e., a country). Intuiting the need for presidents to act presidential, he plays Lincoln as Lincoln himself must have: with shrewdness, pomp and conviction, in a race against time and the limits of one’s own legacy. So, while it is neither newsy nor great, the movie has purpose (to tell a history, and to win Oscars), if not much of a pulse. I like it for the other war it shows—the one between Lincoln and his ego.

Rating: B-

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