(NOTE: A version of this article was originally published here.)
** (out of 4)
When Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln was first released, many critics claimed that Spielberg had succeeded in portraying “Lincoln the man” instead of “Lincoln the legend.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, for instance, Mick LaSalle asserted that Spielberg “takes Lincoln down from his memorial and transforms him, from a timeless sage back into the product of…the American frontier.” Roger Ebert, moreover, noted that “I’ve rarely been more aware than during…‘Lincoln’ that Abraham Lincoln was a plain-spoken…man from…Kentucky.” And The New York Times’ A.O. Scott praised Lincoln for dismantling stereotypes, comparing it favorably to the many films that caricaturize presidents as “square-jawed action heroes, stoical Solons or ineffectual eggheads.”
In two respects, to be sure, Lincoln certainly does break through the “great man” mythology surrounding America’s 16th president.