Killing Lincoln (Blu-ray)

June 13, 2013 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

In the past twelve months we’ve been inundated with movies about Lincoln.  Granted Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn’t exactly the biopic that Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln was, but the 16th President’s name was in the title.  We now have Killing Lincoln, a made for television movie that premiered on the National Geographic channel to the highest ratings the channel has ever seen.  It’s narrated by Tom Hanks and was based on the book by television newsman Bill O’Reilly.  Admittedly I’ve never been that much into politics, but I’ll be the first to agree that essentially every President of the United States has had a hard, thankless job.  And when looking back, it’s usually a toss up as to who the best President really was (Washington or Lincoln).  Lincoln did end slavery, and managed to preside over a country that was literally divided.  What Killing Lincoln does is chronicle the last few weeks of Lincoln’s life in very dramatic fashion.  Let’s take a look.

There’s a lot of mystery and intrigue when it comes to the Lincoln assassination.  Yes, we’ve learned in History class that it was John Wilkes Booth (Jesse Johnson) that killed him, but the actual facts of what really happened, it seems, will forever be a mystery.  Killing Lincoln gives us a bit more insight into John Wilkes Booth, a prominent actor from a family of actors, and gives him a bit more depth. History has somewhat written off Booth as a deranged psychopath and, granted, he did kill the President of the United States.  But the show does explain his motivations a bit and we see that Lincoln (Billy Campbell) was more concerned with doing his job rather than worrying about a possible attempt on his life.  We see the suspects, the attempted murder of Secretary of State Seward and the aftermath of the murder.  I, for one, found the show very interesting and entertaining and even learned a few things.  It’s a testament to how intriguing Lincoln was when we’re still making movies about him 150 years after his death.

Video: How does it look?

Though the film was made for television, the 1.78:1 AVC HD image has all the makings of a feature-length film.  The majority of the film is very dark, taking place indoors or outside at night.  Flesh tones seem to vary, though we can see the fine detail in Lincoln’s face and hair.  The strands of Booth’s mustache are noticeable and the warm hues of the candlelight and fabrics of clothes are visible.  Intercut are shots of Tom Hanks as he guides us through the sequence of events and we see his five o’clock shadow, another testament as to how sharp this image really is.

Audio: How does it sound?

Don’t let the fact that this was made for television throw you – the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is right up there with some of the bigger budget films.  The LFE are heavily involved, adding a sense of intrigue and depth to many of the scenes.  The score sound rich and vibrant and the vocals are sharp and crisp – even Booth’s theatrical pronunciations come off sounding sharp.  Surrounds add the to the experience and let me just say how overly impressed I was with this mix.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The movie was one of the highest rated shows on the National Geographic network, so if you saw this when it aired, this Blu-ray has more than its share of extras that will only add value to the set.  We start off with an audio commentary by Executive Producer and Screenwriter Erik Jendersen.  Jendersen knows his stuff and as much information as there was to sort through (some 28,000 documents) they’ve sculpted it into a very interesting watch.  Fans of the film and Lincoln in general will really enjoy this track.  We get an interview with the Co-Author of the book, TV newsman Bill O’Reilly who says he wrote the book since the education system in America simply isn’t what it used to be.  I’d always thought O’Reilly to be a jerk and maybe he still is, but I have to admire his effort here.  We get an EPK “The Making of Killing Lincoln” along with a slew of short promos: “Becoming Booth”, “Becoming Lincoln”, “Playing Mary Todd”, “Directing a New Lincoln Story” as well as a trailer of sorts.  An UltraViolet copy is also included.

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