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Daniel Day-Lewis 'Simply Becomes Lincoln'

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This year, we've had not one, but two movies about the sixteenth president of the United States. This spring, "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" slashed its way into theaters. This week, a more historically accurate Lincoln shows up onscreen.

Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Daniel Day-Lewis is a two-time Oscar-winning actor, but he surpasses himself and makes us see a celebrated figure in unanticipated ways in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

"Lincoln" unfolds during the final four months of the president's life as he focuses on a dramatic, if little-known struggle: his determination to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, despite fierce opposition.

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TURAN: This film explores the drama inherent in the battle of ideas over the amendment, which Lincoln pushed forward even over the objections of his Cabinet.

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TURAN: Even moviegoers who've seen Day-Lewis disappear seamlessly into roles will be startled by the marvelously relaxed way this consummate actor morphs into this character and simply becomes Lincoln.

Orchestrating all of this is "Lincoln's" celebrated director. But there is nothing showy or overly emotional about Spielberg's efforts here. He's working in service of the script and the acting, to enhance the spoken word, not burnish his reputation.

Screenwriter Tony Kushner, a Pulitzer Prize-winner for "Angels in America," has always been adept at illuminating the interplay of the personal and the political. Kushner has said that he wrote "Lincoln" because he wanted to tell a story that shows that you can achieve great things through the democratic process. It's a lesson that couldn't be more timely or more thoroughly dramatic.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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