Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln as a true mid-westerner, a wry, twinkle-eyed statesman that understood how conviction and likeability could affect the hearts of men. This man has no equal as an actor.
Lincoln is the work of a different director, one truly fascinated by why his subjects do what they do, one who invests each moment with the artistry he has often reserved for setpieces.
Lincoln offers proof of what magic can happen when an actor falls in love with his character. Because as great as Day-Lewis has been in his many parts, he has never seemed quite so smitten.
It's the most remarkable movie Steven Spielberg has made in quite a spell, and one of the things that makes it remarkable is how it fulfills those expectations by simultaneously ignoring and transcending them.
The true tussle of the movie, however, is between the Spielberg who, like a cinematic Sandburg, is drawn aloft toward legend and the Spielberg who is tugged down by Kushner's intricate screenplay toward documentary grit.
The hallmark of the man, performed so powerfully by Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln," is calm self-confidence, patience and a willingness to play politics in a realistic way.
It blends cinematic Americana with something grubbier and more interesting than Americana, and it does not look, act or behave like the usual perception of a Spielberg epic.
The film masterfully captures the dual dilemmas facing the president in the final months of his life: how to bring the war between the states to an end, and how to eradicate slavery, once and for all.
Day-Lewis' voice is thin and reedy, which jibes with historical accounts but subverts our expectations. His attitude makes listeners lean in, and so do we, magnetized by his kindly reserve.