The Conspirator

The Conspirator movie poster

The Conspirator movie poster

The Conspirator is a history drama film directed by Robert Redford starring Robin Wright as Mary Surratt, a woman who is being charged with conspiracy in the assassination of the President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, along with a group of men which includes her son John Surratt (Johnny Simmons), friend of John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell). A lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is appointed to represent her during the hearings.

Much of the film takes place in the court room where we see Aiken halfheartedly defending Surratt, moreso out of duty rather than because he believes in her innocence. Over time, he stops doubting her as comes to wonder whether or not she actually is innocent. It is when events in the court room start to appear as if they are being swayed that Aiken puts deep effort into trying to come up with ways he can prove her innocence, despite the influence of the government. We get to see Mary Surratt during the process but only a surface viewing. As Aiken notes, she is hiding something and purposely not revealing everything in hopes of saving her son, even if it means sacrificing her own freedom. But she also hopes she can be found innocent otherwise without having to give her son in. Despite this, Aiken goes against her wishes and attempts to focus the hearings away from Mary and toward the guilt of John.

While the film is based around the story of Mary Surratt, it is centred around the journey of Frederick Aiken who tries any way he can to prove her innocence, losing his girlfriend Sarah Weston (Alexis Bledel), and becoming a target for American citizens trying to find closure and revenge for the assassination of their president. His reasoning is that, even if she is guilty, she deserves a fair trial even in the time of war.

Patience is needed for a film such as this as it is far from an action film. Attention is paid instead to the scenes rather than the actions. It may also be difficult to grow an attachment toward any of the characters as one may be unsure as to their intentions as well as the presentation of the film itself. It’s more of a historical piece so you certainly don’t require yourself to be rooting for the good guy, or anyone at all, but the ending takes its toll and you realize who you should have been standing by all along. Three stars

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