Title: The Conspirator
Director: Robert Redford
Actors: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Justin Long
Review Written by: Karen Benardello
Many historical dramas are fueled by their filmmakers’ conspiracies and theories on what happened during the event they’re depicting. But Robert Redford proved what an experienced, fantastic filmmaker he is with his latest directorial effort, ‘The Conspirator,’ which is being released to mark the 146th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death. Instead of trying to push his own personal ideals onto his audience, Redford instead rightfully focuses on several different angles of President Lincoln’s assassination without taking away the American leader’s dignity.
‘The Conspirator’ follows the wake of President Lincoln’s assassination in Washington, D.C. Seven men and one woman, Mary Surratt (played by Robin Wright), are charged with helping John Wilkes Booth (played by Toby Kebbell) kill the president. The group is also believed to have aided Booth’s attempts to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward.
New lawyer Frederick Aiken (portrayed by James McAvoy, a Union war-hero, is persuaded by former Attorney General and current U.S. Senator Reveredy Johnson (played by Tom Wilkinson) to defend Mary in front of a military tribunal. Convinced that Booth didn’t act alone, the military is looking for a group for of people to blame. They believe Mary is a perfect target, as her son John (portrayed by Johnny Simmons) is believed to be Booth’s right-hand man. Frederick isn’t sure whether his client is innocent or guilty, but is determined to find out the answer, even though he is shunned by society for doing so.
Overall, the American Film Company, the studio behind ‘The Conspirator,’ took a risky chance deciding to release the historical drama as its first movie. The topic of whether or not northern states should have showed sympathy towards the southern states after the Civil War ended, and the continuous bitterness and urge to take revenge on the opposing side, are still controversial topics. But Redford rightfully decided not to place blame on either side. He also keeps his viewers intrigued by allowing them to decide on their own whether or not Booth acted alone. His approach to the incident was also unique, as the events in the days leading up to President Lincoln’s death have been told numerous times before. ‘The Conspirator’ recounts how the president’s death continued to keep America divided after the end of the Civil War in such a way that it allows viewers to feel as though they’re right alongside Frederick and Mary.
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