Movie Review: THE CONSPIRATOR – 2010
I hate movies that have a moral happy ending, but not an actual one. I mean they’re good, but…. well, I’m conflicted. Robert Redford is a legend of his time as an actor. And like many greats, he’s now taken to direction. His latest offering being the historical, THE CONSPIRATOR.
2 Out Of 5 Stars
Dealing with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, THE CONSPIRATOR shows the events that take place right after Lincoln’s murder. Specifically, we get to see a cinematic historical version of the trial and punishment of the ‘conspirators’ (get it?) who conspired to kill Lincoln.
I’m no historian, so I’m by no means judging the validity of the historical facts in the movie, but more so how they play out in the story. Thought I’d put forth that disclaimer before anyone jumps down my throat about how ‘that’s not what actually happened’.
THE CONSPIRATOR specifically deals with the story of one Southern woman, Mary Surratt, played amazingly by Robin Wright, who is accused of being a conspirator to kill Lincoln. Her defense is placed in the hands of a young Northern Lawyer (the South and North were bitter enemies at the time… the Civil War, look it up) who didn’t believe her innocence anymore than anyone else. However, sworn to uphold the law and justice, James McAvoy’s Frederick Aiken does his job and in the process finds something to believe in.
This movie deals with the fact that the people that conspired to kill Lincoln never got a fair trial. The stacks were against them from day one, and this woman’s case brought that to light. It’s riveting. THE CONSPIRATOR is an out and out courtroom drama set in the 1800’s. It follows all the formulas of thrilling courtroom hysteria; with the frustration of a time without the legal processes we’re used to now. Questions, Witnesses, cross-examinations, all of it is awesome. But something was missing.
Maybe due to the tone of the film, the entire time that James McAvoy’s character is trying to defend his client, we get a sense of utter unfair-ness. Everything is stacked against them, which seems unreal and impractical that there is no objections made beyond what he does. However, that could’ve been the entire point of the story.
The story of THE CONSPIRATOR is an exercise in futility, and meant to be so. The complete bias and persecution with which the entire trial is conducted means there can never be a happy ending. McAvoy’s character realizes this and is frustrated by it, something that was shared by me during the viewing. There are many scenes that feel like more could’ve been done or said, but the way that Aiken is shut out by the ‘Judges’ was probably meant to serve as a commentary on the way these accused were denied due process.
There’s not anything wrong with the movie itself, however, such a story that literally goes nowhere other than to provide some minute details into an already well known story… seems pointless to be made into a movie. It’s slow, boring without any payout in the end. If the only closure in a story has to come from a few lines of text at the end, then it’s really not worth watching… and despite being, at times, a gripping movie, this is the case with THE CONSPIRATOR.