Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review: The Conspirator

Grade: A

Frederick Aiken is a young lawyer and a soldier for the Union in the Civil War. He was celebrating the Union’s victory with state dignitaries and his fellow soldiers when President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. A manhunt is started immediately for booth and his fellow conspirators. Seven men and one woman, Mary Surratt, are arrested and charged for conspiring to kill the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary of State. Aiken is then tasked by Senator Johnson to defend Mary Surratt in her trial before the generals. While very resistant at first, Aiken quickly realizes that Surratt’s fate had been decided by these generals before the trial even started. So, determined to fight for true justice, Aiken puts his own reputation on the line to defend the woman and to make sure that she is tried fairly.

The Conspirator tells the true story of the trial of Mary Surratt after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It is the first movie to be released by The American Film Company, who are dedicated to releasing historically accurate movies. I think that’s interesting because I feel that means that the writers did their research to try to make it as accurate as possible. The story is very interesting and I definitely learned some new things about the Lincoln assassination that I didn’t really know before. The main point of the story isn’t so much about whether or not Mary Surratt was guilty or not, but rather about the corruption within the military court system that seemed determined to convict everybody thought to even be possibly involved in the conspiracy in order to please the American people and possibly themselves. It is directed by Robert Redford (Lions for Lambs, The Legend of Bagger Vance) and he did a great job with it. It is a very well made movie with an interesting look to it. I don’t really know how to describe it, it’s not fuzzy and it’s not foggy, but there is something going on with the cinematography, I really liked the look of the movie.

The movie stars James McAvoy (The Last Station, Wanted) who plays Frederick Aiken, Ms. Surratt’s defense attorney and former Union soldier. I really like McAvoy and he keeps getting better and better with every role and he was absolutely fantastic in this movie. Robin Wright (State of Play, What Just Happened) plays the role of Marry Surratt, the owner of a boarding house who is accused of conspiring to kill President Lincoln. She was really great in this movie, an amazing performance. The movie also features great performances from the rest of the expansive cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Kevin Kline, Norman Reedus, Danny Huston, Toby Kebbll, Stephen Root, Johnny Simmons and many more.

The Conspirator is a fantastic historical drama. It tells a very interesting story about an interesting and important part of American history. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie is shown to students in history class in high school in the near future.

Great quote: “One bullet killed the President, but not one man.”

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