Lincoln rejects both ideas. He rejects the idea that ending the war at the cost of enduring more years of slavery is necessary and he disputes the notion that punishing the South after the war has ended is a noble goal. He is a man who yearns for peace but who is unwilling to compromise his values to achieve it.
Throughout the movie, Lincoln is depicted as something we don’t often view him as: a politician. Like a great politician, he is able to tell a grand story to a group of people with each believing that the story was intended for them. But unlike many politicians, Lincoln was—at considerable risk to both his political fortunes and his legacy— willing to fight for an unpopular position simply because above everything else, he knew it was right.
Many will likely dislike how Spielberg has settled his story around something as seemingly simple as the passage of an amendment. But in deciding to tell the story on a small scale, the director has brought attention to Lincoln the man-- rather than Lincoln the legend-- and made this great leader into a relatable figure who achieved greatness by never backing down from the principle that all men should be free.