Based on The New York Times best-selling novel, Killing Lincoln is the suspenseful, eye-opening story of the events surrounding the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. While some aspects of the plot to slay Lincoln and cripple the newly forming union are widely known, much more of the history unfolds in this insightful thriller. As actor John Wilkes Booth becomes increasingly obsessed with removing Lincoln from office, a secret cabal forms, and ultimately empowers Booth to carry out an event that will change America forever. Narrated by Oscarr Winner Tom Hanks* and produced by Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, this historical masterpiece stars Billy Campbell (TV's The Killing) in a spectacular turn as President Lincoln.
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 coauthored 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. One needn't be an expert to be familiar with the basics of the story: on April 14, 1865, actor John Wilkes Booth (portrayed here by Jesse Johnson, son of Don) assassinated Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln
pretty much obliterated anyone else's, before or since, but Billy Campbell is very good) while the president was attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. Booth then leapt from the stage, injuring his leg in the process, and was hunted down and killed several days later (a self-important blowhard, he expected to be hailed as a hero; instead, he became a villain to rival Benedict Arnold). But casual history buffs may not know some of the other fascinating details presented here (on- and off-camera) by narrator Tom Hanks. For instance, in a scenario straight out of The Godfather
, Booth and his coconspirators planned to kill not only Lincoln but also Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward on the same night; even then, Booth had turned to murder only after first plotting to kidnap Lincoln and deliver him to the Confederate army. Of course, although the filmmakers (including director Ridley Scott and his late brother, Tony) seem scrupulous in their attention to the facts, as a making-of bonus segment makes clear, we can't know for sure if every private discussion is re-created verbatim. Indeed, too much of the dialogue comes across as speechifying instead of normal conversation. But Hanks lends considerable gravitas to the proceedings, the production values are excellent, and although Killing Lincoln
tries a bit too hard to be portentous (there are countless variations on "Abraham Lincoln has 11 days to live"), it does a fine job of turning an event with a very well-known conclusion into a tense and exciting thriller. --Sam Graham