I went to see Lincoln over the weekend, and here is the main thing I took away from the film: Daniel Day-Lewis is an insanely good actor.
From the time the first poster was released, everyone has been amazed at how much he looks like Abraham Lincoln in the film, but after seeing it, the thing that struck me the most was the way he became Lincoln in movement, voice, and style, as well. He vanishes into the role in a way most other actors simply can’t. For example, two of the other main characters in the film are Lincoln’s wife, Mary, and a Congressman named Thaddeus Stevens, played by Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively. Both of them do a fine job. But because they each have a very identifiable style that they don’t alter too much from film to film, I had a little trouble fully accepting them as their characters. (I have the same problem with Denzel Washington, who I love dearly, but who has played exactly two characters in his entire life: Good Denzel and Bad Denzel.)
The result was that I found myself thinking, at various points throughout the movie, “Oh, now Lincoln is fighting with Sally Field” or “Man, Tommy Lee Jones really doesn’t like Abraham Lincoln,” which are kind of hilarious phrases when you strip them of any context. I’m sure part of that is the fact we’re not as familiar with Daniel Day-Lewis because he doesn’t do as much press or as many movies as the other two, but even then, his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood was a BIG HONKING PERFORMANCE (one of the more memorable ones in recent film history), and his version of Lincoln contained practically no carryover from that role. The two characters were as different as, well, as different as Daniel Plainview and Abraham Lincoln. I suppose that’s my point.