In Lincoln, Steven Spielberg brings the 16th President’s turbulent final months in office to life, and with it bequeaths upon us one of the great history lessons in the annals of cinema. While President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) tries to unite a country by bringing an end to the Civil War, his principal focus is to abolish slavery and change the fate for the millions of lives that will follow.

Spielberg masterfully invites us into the House of Representatives to witness the procedures of Congress and the rambunctious battles fought in order to pass the 13th Amendment, while also showing us the darker side of politics behind the scenes, where votes are bribed and paid for. The vivid relevance of our political system then and its eerie similarities compared to now are obvious and on the surface, but never in a way that shoves it in your face. What more can be said of Daniel Day-Lewis – an actor that I (and many others) consider the greatest of his generation – who embodies the monumental and melancholy figure with such magnetizing fascination that one forgets you are watching the actor and not Lincoln himself (and isn’t that the greatest compliment you can give a performance?). With a marvelous supporting cast (including standout performances from Sally Field, James Spader, and Tommy Lee Jones), a tight and balanced script from playwright Tony Kushner, and impeccable direction from Steven Spielberg, Lincoln pays exceptional homage to our greatest President and his pinnacle achievement, and at this moment is the best film I have seen this year.

(****)