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Film Review

Robyn Morrison reviews Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s film about Abraham Lincoln’s fight to abolish slavery

As the most nominated film at this year’s Academy Awards, Lincoln has all the right ingredients to beat the competition. It is a biopic about a famous historical figure, told by an experienced and established director, staring a hugely talented lead actor, with the emotive subject of slavery at its core.

Set in 19th Century America, a year before the end of the Civil War, Lincoln is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to pass the Thirteenth Amendment and end slavery before the war is over. The film focuses on this, rather than an account of Lincoln’s whole presidency, to give an in-depth historical account of one of the most important times in his life, just weeks before his murder.

The story is told against the backdrop of the Civil War in the 16th Presidents second term in office, at a time of tense political indecision. The audience follows Lincoln’s journey as he attempts to sway congress to vote in favour of the amendment, through passionate speeches and political arm-twisting, which builds up to a surprisingly gripping scene as members of parliament cast their votes.

As expected, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Lincoln is Oscar-worthy as he portrays the courageous President, fighting to change the law and abolish slavery with fierce determination. His portrait of Lincoln is competently supported by Sally Field, who gives a heart-wrenching portrayal of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman overwhelmed with grief at the death of their son years earlier.

At over two-and-a-half hours long and full of political and historical references, the richly-detailed biopic is not for the faint hearted. The script, written by Tony Kushner, is wordy and requires full concentration. In parts, the film was more like visiting a museum exhibit than sitting down to be entertained; however such a moving and heartfelt portrayal of an iconic man and his influence on American History simply cannot be missed.