RATED PG-13 (an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language)
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and David Strathairn
The moment he first appears on the screen as the title character in "Lincoln," Daniel Day-Lewis reaches out, grabs your attention and refuses to let go for the next two and a half hours.
Day-Lewis is acknowledged as one of our great modern film actors, and "Lincoln" only reinforces that view. He looks like he walked straight off a $5 bill or a Mathew Brady photograph. He is tall and stoop-shouldered, with sunken cheeks and the haunted look of a man who has led his country through four years of a bloody civil war.
Then Day-Lewis speaks, and you are completely hooked. He talks in the high-pitched voice suggested by history books (and not previously used in a film about Lincoln). His plain speaking, his way with a story and the wisdom of his words immediately make you feel like you are in the room with the 16th president of the United States.
It is a mesmerizing performance, and "Lincoln" would be worth seeing just for Day-Lewis. But there is more to Steven Spielberg's movie than that -- quite a bit more.
If you think "Lincoln" is going to be another Civil War epic (something certainly suggested by ads for the film), you would be wrong. Working with a literate and lyrical script by playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"), Spielberg has crafted an intimate, compelling drama. While the horror of the war permeates the entire movie, there is just one short battle scene and one scene that takes Lincoln to the carnage of the battleground around Petersburg, Va.