Steven Spielberg works his directorial magic to turn a dialogue-heavy movie about political negotiations into a riveting drama. He's helped enormously by a Tony Kushner script that's packed with intriguing elements. (Kushner drew historical material from Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals" and other works.) And Spielberg is helped by the performances. Daniel Day-Lewis utterly disappears into the character of Lincoln, with a gaze that indicates great intelligence, empathy and humor. This truly is the role Day-Lewis was born to play; he bears an amazing resemblance to Lincoln. He speaks in a reedy, Will-Rogers-ish voice, his shoulders hunched by the weight of the world. He conveys, though, Lincoln's homespun charisma and his ability to charm the public. While Day-Lewis has no acting peers, the rest of the huge cast does extraordinarily well. Particularly worthy: Sally Field makes Mary Lincoln - a woman who has often been reduced to something approaching caricature - sympathetic and real.
- KRISTINA DORSEY