With Ridley Scott and the late Tony Scott as executive producers, Killing Lincoln is a documentary which is approached with the expertise of a Hollywood Blockbuster. Few re-enactment sequences are this polished and visually compelling, not to mention being done with more than a modicum of convincing acting. This paired with an intimate narration from Tom Hanks makes Killing Lincoln one of the hippest presentations of accurate American history available.
The film is based on the best-selling book by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard and was originally aired on the National Geographic Channel. Billy Campbell from TV’s “The Killing” plays President Abraham Lincoln, though he is hardly the star of this recreation documentary. The emphasis remains on a John Wilkes Booth’s angry journey to the first Presidential assassination in American history, played by Jesse Johnson.
There are many elements within Killing Lincoln which work well. In fact, an argument could be made that each of the elements on their own are fine, but none of them seem to go together. Some of the actor’s underplay the drama, while other over-do it. The film looks fantastic, but relies on the narration of Hanks to tell us everything we are seeing, as we are seeing it. Then it often repeats it again, over-simplifying material to the point that it is almost comically suspenseful. The end result is something that I would show to an elementary student in order to keep them entertained in history, but wouldn’t recommend it for many discerning fans of history or the book.
The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary with executive producer and screenwriter Erik Jendresen, as well as an interview with O’Reilly. There is a making-of featurette and a whole slew of promotional material made to pump up the anticipation for the television debut.
Entertainment Value: 5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Disc Features: 5/10