STEVEN Spielberg artfully tears a page from history to immortalise the efforts of the 16th president of the United States to abolish slavery during a turbulent period of deep division within the House of Representatives.

At a time when multiculturalism is trotted out by politicians as modern society's badge of honour, Lincoln is a stark reminder of the sins of the past and how far we still have to go to create a world of true equality.

Tony Kushner’s eloquent script condenses the final months of the president’s life into an elegiac portrait of a husband and father whose courage in the eye of a political storm tested his resolve and his marriage.

A terrific ensemble is magnificently led by Daniel Day-Lewis. So often berated for grand-standing and chewing scenery, here the statuesque Londonborn actor is the model of restraint.

His performance is no less affecting, and the physical transformation is startling but our eyes are constantly drawn to him as a force of quiet intensity in a sea of screaming browbeaters.

A powerful prologue on blood-stained battlefields segues neatly to January 1865. Two months have passed since Lincoln’s re-election, the American Civil War rages on for a fourth year and the president’s thoughts turn to the highly contentious slavery bill.

Secretary Of State William H Seward (David Strathairn) counsels against the motion, given the current make-up of the House of Representatives. But Lincoln is adamant the Bill must be passed before the end of the war and he enlists William N Bilbo (James Spader) and Colonel Robert Latham (John Hawkes) to procure votes.

Inside the House, fervent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) continues to rile the Democrat opposition led by Fernando Wood (Lee Pace). Meanwhile, Lincoln contends with the mood swings of his emotionally fragile wife (Sally Field), who is so often his rock.

Running time is slightly long, testing our concentration and physical resolve, yet the Spielberg’s film is such a magnificent technical achievement and every shot is so beautifully framed that, overall, it deserves a rousing vote of confidence.