Ford is a director of paradox. The climactic courtroom drama is pure hokum, never mind that it's based in history—the storytelling would barely pass muster in bad TV. But Ford laces the corniest plots with rich emotions and subtexts. Lincoln being greeted by the applause of the rabble and scared shitless by their irrationality is a stunningly poetic interpretation of American history.
There is a certain cleverness and craft to any given shots of this movie. The characters and their place within the framework of the story is introduced through their relationship with the camera and other objects in the space of a shot. It is remarkable how much massage a great director can convey just by placing the actors in the right distance of each other and the camera.
It may be historically inaccurate, but the pure poetry of John Ford's direction trumps this fact, so it doesn't matter. Young Mr. Lincoln is a beautiful film. Henry Fonda is amazing as always, but the film really is an overall display of powerhouse performances. The imagery is stunning as well. Maybe it's jingoistic, or maybe we've all grown too cynical. This film is about the things that work in the American system.