At the movie's beginning, two black Union soldiers talk with Lincoln on a battlefield. One is plainspoken, the other calculating, one thrilled with his new life the other resentful of the new world's limits, one content with his current success the other impatient for advancement, one of simple knowledge while the other had memorized the Gettysburg Address. These two are brilliantly organized to present the theme and mood of the movie where disparate but not divergent or antagonistic elements are constantly in play.
The focus is the 13th Amendment vote in the Congress, a vote that might be sidetracked by the South's surrender. Politics and idealism, war and peace, men and women, black and white, cynicism and optimism, rural and city, homespun and abstract all come to meet on the delicate blade of the "here and now."
Day-Lewis is wonderful as Lincoln, complex, troubled, conflicted but with a great understanding, kindness and vision that transcends the political debate and the military conflict. Field is brilliant as Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman filled with ambition and sorrow made deeper and more understandable but no more likable than any other portrayal. And the support is excellent, uncanny in appearance and refined in focus. But the star is Spielberg whose genius brings this massive collage--all parts self-consciously aware of their own importance--together for human and humane debate in the "here and now."
When I got up to leave two big, middle-aged men stayed along with me to watch the credits scroll. In the middle of the credits a young woman came in to the almost empty theater to clean under the seats and pick up loose bags and popcorn. As the two men left, each tipped her, to her likely eternal astonishment.
It was that kind of movie.