I spent this afternoon watching Lincoln at our local theater, and I'll just say wow.
Beautifully structured, beautifully acted, wonderful sets -- but its strongest point lies in what it accomplished. I saw Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay (he's most famous for Angels in America, but he also wrote Munich) on the Colbert Report show a few days, and one question Colbert asked was how he managed to make the passing of a bit of legislation exciting.
Well, he did. I was enthralled, and I wasn't the only one. The theater was filled (a Fort Smith theater!) with with silence (except for frequent laughter, because despite the tension, the movie has some very funny bits).
What makes it work, I think, is that Kushner (basing his work on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography) shows just how smart, and just how crafty, Lincoln actually was. Talk about your eleventh-dimensional thinker: Lincoln was it.
And self-taught -- the film gets that too, showing without banging on about it Lincoln's working-class background. His grammar is frequently flawed, and he kneels down (crawls around, in fact) to build his own fires in the White House, dresses (and shaves) not like a gentleman but like a working man.
There was applause at two points in the movie in my theater (I won't say which two) and afterwards half the theater stayed in their seats, watching the credits through to the end.
The music was great too, I'll add.
Don't miss this one.