‘Killing Lincoln’ falters in attempts at drama

  • By Rich Heldenfels Akron Beacon Journal
  • Friday, February 15, 2013 4:44pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

With Daniel Day-Lewis the prohibitive favorite to win the best-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Honest Abe in Lincoln, I can’t help but feel sorry for Billy Campbell.

Campbell plays the 16th president in “Killing Lincoln,” a production based on the novel by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard; it premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on National Geographic Channel.

NGC calls this its “first original scripted drama,” although it is in fact something of a hybrid, almost like a documentary with extended re-enactments. Tom Hanks appears as an authoritative host, describing and explaining events while addressing the audience directly or in voice-overs.

The Hanks segments then serve as a bridge between the dramatized portions, which include not only Campbell’s Lincoln but scheming by John Wilkes Booth (played by Jesse Johnson) and other conspirators.

The script — covering events before the assassination and its aftermath — is by Erik Jendresen, an Emmy winner as writer and producer on the Hanks-backed “Band of Brothers,” and the production does try to hew to the historical record, to offer bits that audiences may not know and, on occasion, to note gaps in history.

This occasionally leads to some odd production decisions, such as having the actors perform a scene from one historical account while the narration is skeptical of that happening, or showing the making of a photo now lost. But the larger problem with “Killing Lincoln” lies not in its writing but its presentation.

Campbell, seen not long ago in “The Killing” (not of Lincoln), is a good actor. He has a knack for conveying a pained vulnerability, which is sometimes used in his Lincoln performance.

But where Day-Lewis rivetingly inhabited his character, Campbell cannot get so close; too often his Lincoln seems little more than a trick of makeup, especially around the eyes.

But even taken on its own, “Killing Lincoln” is moderately interesting in its information, at least for people unfamiliar with accounts of the assassination, but lacking in its attempts at drama.

More in Life

Julia Turner and her father, Ed, toast as they try out a flight of beer and cider at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. when it opened last year. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Now is the perfect time to design the garden of your dreams

Find inspiration in gardening magazines, on the internet, in your neighborhood and at nurseries.

Around Thanksgiving, gardeners give thanks for the garden

What are they most thankful for? The pleasure they receive from spending time in their yards.

Great Plant Pick: Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’

What: An exceptional selection of the eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis “Degroot’s Spire”… Continue reading

The pros’ snow: Lake Tahoe a big draw for skiers of all stripes

North Lake Tahoe is home to one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in North America.

How birds stay alive in winter and what you can do to help

When the weather turns chilly, columnist Sharon Wootton’s thoughts turn to birds coping with cold.

Our annual list of holiday events in Snohomish County and beyond

LIGHTS The Lights of Christmas: Open 5 to 10 p.m. Nov. 30-Dec.… Continue reading

How to maintain your life’s balance amid change

Columnist Paul Schoenfeld shares some techniques for working toward a sense of stability.

Taylor Swift avoided and mocked the media with ‘Reputation’

Since its release on Nov. 10, the pop star’s sixth album has officially sold more than 1 million copies.

Most Read