7 November 2012 7:45 AM, PST | Vulture | See recent Vulture news »

Four score and seven films—at least—might have been contrived from events in the life of Abraham Lincoln, but in Lincoln, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner home in on a narrow segment: a few short months in 1865, before Lincoln was shot. The focus is not on the civil war that took hundreds of thousands of American lives or the assassination that came less than a week after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. (Lincoln’s death is the film’s tragic dénouement, not its climax.) The prism through which Spielberg and Kushner view the sixteenth president of the United States is politics—the fine and coarse art of persuasion, the machine in a democracy through which ideals are translated into legislation and legislation into law.By Spielbergian standards, Lincoln is a nuanced, knotty, bridled piece of filmmaking, an exercise in restraint. But Spielberg is a great film artist, »

- David Edelstein

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