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NY1 Movie Review: "Lincoln"

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Academy Award-wining director Steven Spielberg teams up with Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," a portrait of our 16th president in his last four months in office as he tries to abolish slavery. NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following review.

Director Steven Spielberg has tackled history before, and now latest film "Lincoln" takes on America's 16th president, portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis.

The movie takes place four months before Abraham Lincoln's assassination. The South is losing the civil war and Lincoln's goal is to pass the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. The president realizes that if the South were to surrender and be brought back into the fold, the amendment would have no chance of passing.

Even without the South in the mix, Lincoln has a very tough road, as he needs 20 more congressional votes for it to pass. Spielberg shows how Lincoln and his cabinet do whatever it takes to secure the votes.

In the process, we get a lesson on how the U.S. legislative process works, circa 1865, courtesy of Tony Kushner, who based his screenplay, in part, on a book by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

As Lincoln, Day-Lewis is amazing. Previous biopics of Honest Abe have made him this larger than life, mythic figure. But Lewis humanizes the man. From Lincoln's striking physical resemblance, to his folksy voice, to capturing his sense of humor and his desire to tell long anecdotes, this fascinating portrait is a revelation.

Spielberg opens the film with a bloody Civil War, hand-to-hand combat battle scene. It reminded me of the opening of "Saving Private Ryan," except this time with mid-19th century weaponry.

It's a bit long, close to two-and-a-half-hours, there's a hokey contrived scene early on, and if you don't like history, you might find it a bit tedious.

But visually it's extraordinary. The drab, darkly lit White House never looked so bad.

Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln adds dimension to a woman who previously was just written off in most movie portrayals as merely crazy. The entire supporting cast, particularly Tommy Lee Jones and David Strathairn, are also top-notch.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 3 Apples

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