Film of the week - Lincoln (12A, 150 mins)

Daniel Day-Lewis, (center) as President Abraham Lincoln, David Strathairn as Secretary of State, William Seward (right) and David Costabile as Representative James Ashley (left). PA Photo/Fox Australia Film.
Daniel Day-Lewis, (center) as President Abraham Lincoln, David Strathairn as Secretary of State, William Seward (right) and David Costabile as Representative James Ashley (left). PA Photo/Fox Australia Film.

Steven Spielberg artfully tears a page from history to immortalise the efforts of the 16th president of the United States to abolish slavery during a turbulent period of deep division within the House of Representatives.

Tony Kushner’s eloquent script condenses the final months of the president’s life into an elegiac portrait of a husband and father whose courage in the eye of a political storm tested his resolve and his marriage.

A terrific ensemble cast is led magnificently by Daniel Day-Lewis.

So often berated for grand-standing and chewing scenery, here the London-born actor is the model of restraint, internalising his statesman’s maelstrom of emotions.

A powerful prologue on blood-stained battlefields segues neatly to January 1865. Two months have passed since Lincoln’s re-election, the American Civil War rages on for a fourth year and the president’s thoughts turn to the highly contentious slavery bill. Lincoln contends with the mood swings of his emotionally fragile wife (Sally Field), who is so often his rock.

Every shot is beautifully framed, capturing every facet of Rick Carter’s production design and Joanna Johnston’s costumes, which evoke the era so vividly.

Yet, as the film ends with Lincoln heading to an ill-fated performance of Our American Cousin, we give Spielberg’s film a rousing vote of confidence.