NYFF: First Look At “Lincoln”

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” showed as a “secret screening” as a work-in-progress Monday night at the New York Film Festival. There are many things to like about this bio-pic covering the last three months of Lincoln’s life — including a wonderful lead performance by Daniel Day-Lewis and an even better one by Tommy Lee Jones as a sarcastic abolitionist congressman.

Certainly the odds are excellent that “Lincoln” — which Spielberg said was “incomplete” but which looked like a finished product to me and others and will be shown to invited student audiences in 10 cities Wednesday night in advance of its “world premiere” at the AFI festival on Nov. 8, a day before it opens in wide release — will get a Best Picture nomination.

Day-Lewis will certainly get a nod for his excellent performance as Lincoln. He portrays the Great Emancipator as a consummate politician trying to push the 13th amendment (banning slavery) through the House of Representatives while simultaneously conducting secret peace negotiations with the Confederacy. Day-Lewis’ is a spiritually weary Lincoln who also has to cope with a mentally ill wife, still mourning the death of one son. She’s determined to keep their older son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an underwritten part) out of the war, which results in clashes with Abe.

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