Oscar baiting

OUT NOW! Stephen Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis tick all the Oscar boxes in LINCOLN.

A great character actor interpreting a great American president during a great moment in American history: the early weeks of 1865 leading up to the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery but also triggered Lincoln’s assassination. Can Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln get any more predictable?

One thing seems quite foreseeable: based on Golden Globe win, SAG and also Oscar nominations, it will soon be raining awards for the movie, its lead actor and its director. Backed by an ensemble cast, Spielberg serves up some trademark moments: bombastic battlefields (both inside the Capitol and beyond), contrasted with individual heroics (a quartet of soldiers quoting the Gettysburg Address). John Williams’ intrusive score does its best to dictate our feelings, but overall Daniel Day-Lewis and his magisterial rendering of the 16th US president actually exceeds expectations.

We get to meet Lincoln, the visionary, the progressive Republican, and the master strategist. Times have changed; Republicans have changed; politics – not so much. It turns out that it was not Lincoln’s determination and his fierce fight against the opposition and his own cabinet that ended slavery. The responsibility really lay with the bribes, the threats and the bullying at the core of the American political life. Contemporary audiences wouldn’t expect any less, would they?

Lincoln | Directed by Steven Spielberg (USA 2012) with Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Fields, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, John Hawkes. Starts January 24