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Daniel Day-Lewis' bravura performance in the title role is the highlight -- but by no means the only asset -- of director Steven Spielberg's splendid historical drama. The plot focuses on the Civil War president's passionate yet wily struggle, during the closing days of that conflict, to steer a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery through Congress. Aided by his secretary of state, William Seward (David Strathairn), but distracted by his troubled personal life -- Sally Field plays his famously high-strung wife Mary -- Lincoln uses rhetoric to win over his hesitant Cabinet and patronage to woo his opponents. The trajectory of the tale is, by its nature, uplifting, while Lincoln's multifaceted personality -- which encompassed idealism, political shrewdness, melancholy, humor and even a few endearing foibles -- is vividly illuminated in Tony Kushner's screenplay. The educational value and moral import of the film may make it acceptable for older adolescents

Watch out for: Intense but mostly bloodless battlefield violence, a scene involving severed limbs, cohabitation, about a dozen uses of profanity, racial slurs, a couple of rough terms, occasional crude and crass language.

Rated: The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012