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Adrian Moat
Tom Hanks, Billy Campbell, Jesse Johnson, Regen Wilson.
Writing Credits:
Erik Jendresen (screenplay), Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard (book)

It's dramatic, but not exactly a drama; it's factual, but not a documentary; it's a reenactment, but not really a feature film. However you choose to describe Killing Lincoln, based on the book co-authored by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, it is a compelling account of what many would contend is still the most notorious crime in American history.

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $16.99
Release Date: 6/11/2013

• Audio Commentary with Executive Producer/Screenwriter Erik Jendresen
• Interview with Author Bill O’Reilly
• “Uncovering the Truth” Featurette
• Promotional Features
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Killing Lincoln [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 23, 2014)

While Saving Lincoln concentrated on efforts to protect the president, Killing Lincoln goes in the opposite direction to focus on the plot to assassinate him. Based on the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard and narrated by Tom Hanks, we meet John Wilkes Booth (Jesse Johnson) and his co-conspirators right before they embark on their mission.

After a quick intro, we flash back to see an earlier attempt on Lincoln’s (Billy Campbell) life as well as related issues. We trace aspects of the conspiracy and Lincoln’s experiences as these lead inexorably toward intersection – and beyond, as we also see what happens after the assassination.

On the surface, Saving Lincoln should offer the more intriguing film because it concentrates on the less-told tale. However, Saving wound up as little more than a collection of “Lincoln’s Greatest Hits” and suffered from a high level of amateurism.

While no one will confuse Killing for the “A”-level production values of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, at least it seems much more professional than the woeful Saving - and considerably more interesting, too. Sure, the project feels like what it is: a fairly low-budget program created for the National Geographic Channel. Nonetheless, it seems like a piece of reasonable quality; unlike Saving, Killing won’t embarrass anyone involved.

That said, I can’t claim Killing offers a great piece of work, as it offers from a handful of problems. The “thriller movie” score becomes a particular distraction and it seems out of place in an effort like this. I don’t think a movie about Lincoln’s assassination needs extra effort to deliver emotion, and the attempt to make it a tense action movie of sorts doesn’t feel appropriate. We can extract the drama we need from the material itself, not from clumsy methods meant to add to the source.

This becomes a pervasive issue in Killing, as it too often tries too hard to sell us story/characters that don’t need to be sold. A more low-key approach would’ve better suited the tale and made it more winning.

That said, Killing does give us a concise version of events. It suffers from little fat as it touches on all the relevant subjects. Despite the abbreviated nature of the material, the film manages to move smoothly and keep us with it.

I’m not especially wild about some of the acting, however. In particular, Johnson offers a broad, campy take on Booth. Granted, the assassin appears to have been a rather theatrical person in real life, but Johnson’s performance feels over the top,

Campbell does better as Lincoln but still comes with his flaws, mainly because he lacks the gravity for the role. Lincoln requires an actor with a certain sense of depth and statesmanship, but Campbell can’t deliver that tone. He gives us a competent performance that never hurts the movie, but he adds nothing to it either.

Ultimately, I think Killing presents a moderately involving examination of its subject but it doesn’t succeed as well as I’d like. From the annoying tendency to make it feel like a thriller to some mediocre acting, this becomes a watchable but average historical drama.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Killing Lincoln appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though nothing great, the image was pleasing.

Sharpness was generally fine. Some shots could be a bit on the soft side, but those instances weren’t a substantial concern. Instead, most of the film showed reasonable delineation. I noticed no issues related to jagged edges, shimmering or edge haloes. No source defects marred the presentation, either.

One wouldn’t anticipate bold colors from a Civil War-era film, and Killing went with a pretty standard nearly sepia look. While I can’t say I was wild about the stylistic choices, I thought the Blu-ray represented them well. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows looked clear and distinctive. This was a reasonable representation of the source.

Similar thoughts greeted the docudrama’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. A fairly talky piece, the track usually focused on the front, but it managed to open up as necessary. Some more “action-oriented” moments used the five channels well, and the film’s score broadened to all the speakers on a frequent basis. None of these traits dazzled, but they created an appropriate soundscape for a flick like this.

Audio quality seemed solid. Dialogue was always natural and concise, and though the score tended to get a bit buried in the mix, the music seemed full and lively. Effects showed good clarity and accuracy. Again, this never became an impressive mix, but it was satisfactory.

A few extras fill out the package, and we open with an audio commentary from executive producer/screenwriter Erik Jendresen. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, historical background, cast and performances, sets and locations, and related notions.

While Jendresen occasionally touches on filmmaking areas, he usually concentrates on the facts behind the film’s tale. He does so in a compelling manner; though Jendresen never seems “scholarly”, he does appear to know his stuff. He conveys the details related to the movie in a concise manner and makes this a worthwhile discussion. (Someone should tell him the town is called “Charlottesville”, not “Charlottesburg”, however.)

An Interview with Author Bill O’Reilly runs five minutes, four seconds. In this, O’Reilly discusses why he wrote the book, facts that stand out the most for him, the film adaptation, and some general thoughts. This is little more than a promo piece, so it doesn’t tell us much of interest.

For a “making of” piece, we go to the 22-minute. 22-second Uncovering the Truth. It includes comments from Jendresen, executive producer Ridley Scott, director Adrian Moat, costume designer Amy Andrews Harrell, makeup designer Ashley Fetterman, property master Mark Hughes, production designer Richard Blankenship, stunt coordinator Kid Richmond, and actors Jesse Johnson, Billy Campbell, and Geraldine Hughes. We learn about the source book and its adaptation, the movie’s combination of documentary and acted-out material, research and realism, costumes, props and makeup, cast and performances, sets and locations, and historical recreations.

We learn a reasonable amount here, but the program feels somewhat self-congratulatory, as the participants often tell us how accurate they made the film. That’s good – and appreciated – but I could’ve done with less backpatting and more about the movie’s actual creation.

Four Promotional Features fill a total of 10 minutes, 26 seconds. We see “Becoming Booth” (2:39), “Becoming Lincoln” (2:00), “Playing Mary Todd” (1:51) and “Directing a New Lincoln Story” (2:16). Across these, we hear from Johnson, Campbell, Hughes, Blankenship and Moat. They talk about story but mostly discuss characters and performances. These clips lack much depth, but they give us a few good insights.

The disc opens with ads for Atlas Shrugged Part II, The Bible and The Oranges. Sneak Peeks includes promos for Hitchcock, Stoker, A Late Quartet, The Last Ride and Homeland Season One. A preview for Killing pops up in the “Promotional Features” area.

While not a bad look at historical areas, Killing Lincoln never quite turns into a winning drama. It delivers a competent piece and that’s about it. The Blu-ray brings us generally positive picture and audio along with supplements highlighted by a fairly informative commentary. Killing turns into a decent intro to its subject.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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