Here’s one bit of luck enjoyed by Salvador Litvak’sSaving 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.
Salvador LitvakTom Amandes, Lea Coco, Penelope Ann Miller, Bruce Davison, Creed Bratton, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Josh Stamberg, Robert Craighead, Lew Temple, Michael MaizeNina Davidovich, Salvador LitvakReuben LimIndependent Pictures