'The Conspirator' DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello
Providing an intriguing, entertaining historical drama that doesn’t make its viewers feel as though they’re sitting in history class is a difficult task for many directors. Instead of trying to push his own conspiracies and theories about what happened immediately before and after President Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 'The Conspirator,' which is now available to rent on DVD at Long Island Redbox locations, Robert Redford instead rightfully focuses on several different angles of without taking away the American leader's dignity. Paired with lead actor James McAvoy’s engaging portrayal of Union war-hero turned new lawyer Frederick Aiken, the drama is surprisingly fascinating.
'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.
Frederick 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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