Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Saving Lincoln: The U.S. Marshall and the 16th President
Hill Lamon was a Southerner who opposed slavery. He was a lawyer, who packed a mean banjo and
a plenty of guns. Before the creation of
the Secret Service, he was a handy man for Lincoln to have around. The odd couple friendship between the
president and his self-appointed, but Federally-empowered bodyguard is
dramatized in Salvador Litvak’s Saving
opens this Friday in New York.
he explains in media res to some of Lincoln’s rather disappointed supporters, Lamon
was not at the Ford Theater on that fateful night. He was serving as a special Reconstruction envoy
down south. Via flashbacks, we watch their
whole story unfold. Both men shared a
love of song that brought them together as friends and law partners. During the dark days of the Civil War, Lamon
often raises Lincoln’s spirits with a hill country folk tune, like “Old Dan
Tucker.” He also finds foiling assassination
attempts is a full time endeavor.
not as epic as the Oscar favorite turned underdog, Saving Lincoln largely ignores (or spares) the less than edifying
rhetoric of the rival Democratic Party, but conveys all the virulent invective
flowing from the press (which were essentially one and the same, even then). However, the real eye-opener of Saving Lincoln is the sheer volume and
increasing audacity of the attempts made on Lincoln’s life. Indeed, there are enough assassination bids
to build a film around, which is essentially what Litvak has done.
Saving Lincoln is also something else
entirely. Shot entirely on a green-key
soundstage, Litvak incorporated vintage era photographs into the CGI backdrop,
creating the impression of Matthew Brady pictures come to life. Although not as artistically rendered, the
nearest comparison might be Lech Majewski’s genre-defying The Mill & the Cross.
While initially it looks a little weird (particularly in less stately
settings, oddly enough), it is far less distracting over time than the high
frame rate of Jackson’s Hobbit. In fact, the approach works quite well in
big, momentous scenes, most notably including the Gettysburg Address.
own Tom Amandes is a bit short perhaps, but otherwise a good physical likeness
as Lincoln. More importantly, he is
quite good at tapping into the iconic president’s deep reservoirs of humility
and humanity. This is a surprisingly
touching performance. In contrast, Lea
Coco’s work is rather mannered as Lamon.
Yes, he is a Southerner and Coco is not about to let us forget it. Still, Penelope Ann Miller’s turn as Mary
Todd Lincoln clearly suggests she is high strung, but in a nuanced rather than
From giving Sen. Ned Baker (Republican of
Oregon) his due as a longtime Lincoln confidant and the only member of Congress
to fall in battle as a uniformed officer, to exploring the role the 16th
President’s Christian faith played in his life and opposition to slavery, Saving Lincoln is a worthy addition to
the growing Lincoln film canon. It
successfully evokes the look and feel of the Civil War era through its green
screen effects and it is supported by a very fine lead performance from
Amandes. Recommended for Presidents’ Day
viewing, Saving Lincoln opens this
Friday (2/15) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Abraham Lincoln, Ward Hill Lamon