In the previous Lincoln trailer, we only got a brief glimpse of Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance—not quite enough to tell whether or not the acclaimed actor had managed to return to the same Everest-like heights of Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood, or whether he had simply settled for another Ballad of Jack and Rose/Nine-level tour de force.
In the new Lincoln trailer, we get a much fuller glimpse of Day-Lewis’ performance, and we may as well call it right now: The best actor Oscar is Day-Lewis’ for the taking. Yes, Joaquin Phoenix was electrifying in The Master, but he only radically altered his posture and his mannerisms for the role, not his voice or his appearance (although he did alter them too—just not radically). In Lincoln, Day-Lewis has transformed himself completely, and if there’s a type of performance that the Academy has a special soft spot for, it’s performances where the actor is utterly unrecognizable. You can sort of tell that Freddie Quell in The Master is played by the same actor that starred in Two Lovers, but you’d never guess that Lincoln was played by the same actor who played both Bill the Butcher and Daniel Plainview.
Of course, the Academy also doesn’t like giving awards to the same person multiple times, and Day-Lewis has already won the award twice, so perhaps we shouldn’t exclude Phoenix from the running just yet. (It’s also important to note that Lincoln hasn’t screened for critics yet. For all we know, it could be another Amistad).