I was fortunate to attend an early screening here in Los Angeles yesterday, and I think it’s hands-down the best film ever made about the US of A — what we are, what we aren’t, what we could be. It’s a most important artistic mulling over of our country, its processes, and the human being we hold up as the paragon of its leadership. I’ve never seen anything quite like it: a rich, challenging, and so frequently moving meditation about this land I was born upon.
I was brought to tears no less than four times (count ‘em): in the first scene between Lincoln and his youngest son Tad, Thaddeus Stevens’ return home to his “maid” after the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment, the silent Appomattox Courthouse sequence, and the ending (the most devastating moment that Mr. Spielberg has yet composed).
The entire cast (which is full of our best working character actors) is outstanding across the board, but I was particularly amazed by the performances of James Spader (as W.N. Bilbo), Jared Harris (as General Ulysses S. Grant), and the riveting Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln). And there’s no praise high enough for the work of Daniel Day-Lewis (in the title role), my friend Tony Kushner (who wrote the script), and Spielberg. I’m not even going to try to capture their achievement in words. The three of them have offered something to all of us that is truly special and so very needed as our nation looks forward.
For goodness sake, go see this movie when it is released across the country next weekend.