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Review: 'Saving Lincoln' lacks insight into the historical figure

The low-budget film, which centers on Abraham Lincoln's friendship with Ward Hill Lamon, comes off as amateurish.

February 15, 2013|By Mark Olsen
  • A scene from "Saving Lincoln."
A scene from "Saving Lincoln." (Handout )

It is unfair to compare a relatively anonymous, low-budget film to a high-end Hollywood production such as Steven Spielberg's Oscar showpiece "Lincoln," but someone decided to release "Saving Lincoln" at this time, which means, well, they asked for it.

The film purports to be about the friendship between Lincoln and Ward Hill Lamon, a friend and colleague from Lincoln's days of Illinois lawyering who went with him to Washington to function as confidant and bodyguard, something of a folksy consigliere, yet the story doesn't really explore their relationship in any depth. Rather, the film feels like an animated Wikipedia page, just sort of running through the greatest hits of Lincoln's life in office — the Emancipation Proclamation! Gettysburg! The Theater! — without any real insight.

The character of Lamon, played by Lea Coco, is the one possible spark of the new here but is left in the shadow of Lincoln. (And Tom Amandes as Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis' performance still in people's minds makes for arguably the most hopelessly no-win role in recent memory.) Then there is the film itself, created by using a green-screen process to transform antique period photographs into the backdrop and settings, a process director and co-writer Salvador Litvak describes as "CineCollage" and that renders the film with an unreal, illogical quality. The perspectives are often off, people seeming too big or too small for their surroundings, at times just plain goofy. Even disregarding the comparison to "Lincoln," all on its own "Saving Lincoln" feels amateurish, strange and beyond redress.

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"Saving Lincoln." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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