New Video // 2005 // 140 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 28th, 2006
A contemporary exploration of a president whose greatest war took place within himself.
Everyone knows the name Abraham Lincoln. One of our earliest presidents was known as a Civil War leader, a champion for the end of slavery, and one of the most honest folks to ever sit in the White House Oval Office. But aside of staring down at the five dollar bill, what do you really know about Mr. Lincoln? The History Channel's ambitious Lincoln takes viewers inside the mind of a president who was haunted at every turn and lived a life full of turmoil, sadness, loneliness, and grief. Biographers, scholars, and experts attempt to take us inside the mind of Lincoln, from his youth in Illinois to his eventual rise into the most powerful man in the country. If you think you know everything there is to know about Abraham Lincoln...think again.
I love movies that have no social redeeming value whatsoever. You know the kinds of movies I'm talking about. Armageddon. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Van Wilder. Oh how I just love crap, crap wrapped up in more crap stuffed with crap. I'm a pop culture junkie if I've ever seen one.
Yet every now and again I find myself wanting just a little bit more out of the medium of film. It's at this point that I hunt down titles like The History Channel's Lincoln. The documentary is a detailed look into the mind of what some believe was the greatest American figure ever to walk on our soil. Lincoln is a fascinating watch for many reasons, the biggest being that it's not just about Lincoln's life and legacy, but also his emotional state of mind. In a way this is more a psychological exploration of the sixteenth president, a man who was haunted by the ghosts of his past and the decisions of his present.
Lincoln did not live an easy life. His mother died at an early age and Lincoln was raised by a father who never showered him with the kind of love a small boy needs. Death always seemed to be a constant in Lincoln's life, from his children to his siblings, his girlfriends, and colleagues -- it loomed over him like the cast shadow of a tombstone. The program seems to make a case that Lincoln suffered from enormous bouts of depression that may have led to his staggeringly productive work output. Certainly the man was weighed down with heavy, burden-laden decisions about the Civil War (which would end up being one of the bloodiest and deadliest America would ever partake in). Lincoln's home life was never easy; his wife Mary was sick with a mental illness that constantly disrupted Lincoln's life, giving way to gossip and scandal as the years passed on.
The scholars and writers interviewed are knowledgeable on the subject of Lincoln, and director Vikram Jayanti (who also helmed the Oscar winning When We Were Kings) shows a sure hand splicing together the talky segments and the dramatic reenactments of Lincoln's childhood, teen years, eventual presidency, and tragic demise.
I was surprised at just how fast Lincoln zoomed by. The program is almost two and a half hours long, yet it felt like the length of a thirty-minute sitcom. Credit goes to Jayanti and the rest of the crew for making this one of the most curious and interesting "educational" programs in a long time. If you can't get your kids to read their history text books, maybe try having them watching Lincoln as a starting point -- it's enthralling, fascinating, and insightful television.
Lincoln is presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen (contrary to the case's claim that the transfer is "16x9 widescreen"). It's a shame that in this day and age a company like NewVideo (distributor for "The History Channel") can't take the time to give an anamorphic enhancement to a widescreen version of a film. As it stands this picture looks good, but not great. There are solid black levels and bright colors throughout, though a bit of edge enhancement does creep in from time to time. Maybe next time NewVideo will learn to get it right...
The soundtrack for Lincoln is presented in what appears to be Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround (the case doesn't specify). This mix is good, not great -- the interview segments, music and effects are all clearly heard and well recorded. There isn't much in the way of directional effects or surround sounds -- overall it's a fairly front heavy mix. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
The only bonus feature included on this disc is a short featurette titled "History in the Making: Lincoln" which looks at what it took to bring this documentary to the small screen, as well as a little more exploration into Lincoln's life and times.
Review content copyright © 2006 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "History in the Making: Lincoln" Featurette