The Conspirator

Rated PG-13 122 min. 2011

Robert Redford is not a flashy filmmaker, and in the case of The Conspirator, that’s a good thing, because this isn’t a story that lends itself to flashiness. Actually, at this point in time, Redford’s solid and rather old-fashioned courtroom drama is a bit daring in that it allows itself to be solid and old-fashioned. And nothing matters so much in it as the characterizations, which come off nicely with the Redford approach. The results are surprisingly transfixing drama over a little-known and little-discussed aspect of American history. After establishing the situation, the film gets down to the thrust of its particular story about revenge-seeking Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) moving heaven and earth not so much for justice as for punishing anyone who might even be suspected of having a hand in the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. That brings us to the film’s central drama, which is the patently unfair trial of Mary Surratt and her defense by the initially unwilling Civil War hero Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), who is saddled with the thankless task by Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). Both men know that the case is almost certainly unwinnable, and that if Aiken should somehow win it, it will be a bitter victory that will set most of Washington against him. Much of the drama here involves Aiken’s growing conviction that Mary Surratt actually did not know of the plan to assassinate Lincoln, but it also involves his coming to understand the basic violation of her rights in being “tried” without jury in a military court.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Robert Redford

Writer: James Solomon

Cast: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Groff, Danny Huston, Kevin Kline, Toby Kebbell and Norman Reedus


The Conspirator

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