Daniel Day-Lewis Looms Over Museum Re-enactment Acting of Saving Lincoln


Here’s one bit of luck enjoyed by Salvador Litvak’s Saving Lincoln, the offest off-brand version of a story recently told by the biggest names and budgets in Hollywood: The tragic ending the material demands precludes viewers from complaining that the movie is the most unpleasant thing that could happen in a theater. That’s not just because the tall shadow of Daniel Day-Lewis hangs over this, or because the acting and scripting are at the museum re-enactment level, or because in a key early scene the federal marshal charged with protecting the life of the 16th president actually says “Lincoln, I have been thinkin’ ” as if he’s launching into some patter song interpolating “If I Only Had a Brain.” No, the trouble here is that almost every shot is of starchily costumed actors in front of green-screened photographs of the White House, or Civil War battlefields, or cavernous, empty rooms. Imagine the stiffness of a Star Wars prequel but without the bravura technique. Foreground characters yammer on in muted color and the backgrounds yawn in flat black and white; the effect is something like if a theater troupe got hold of Ken Burns’s stock photos and the projection technology employed by TV meteorologists. Stick with it, and you might find some moments rewarding: a climactic sing-along of “Dixie,” or how Lincoln and General McClellan pause a shouting match so that a famous photo can be taken. But here’s the best that can be said of Saving Lincoln: On occasion there’s shots your eyes don’t immediately reject. Gape at the trailer on YouTube.