Let’s be honest we live in a world that thrives on conspiracy, from politics, power struggles, religion, secret societies and sports especially Scottish football Referees with the paranoid among us reminding is the mortal words of Spooky Mulder ‘the truth is out there’.America the so called land of the free many want us to believe which many of us know is not the case (same goes with many other countries worldwide too) but when we hear someone use that term of ‘land of the free’ what do they actually mean ‘free’? Does that freedom mean been arrested, charged with murder simply because you are the mother of a co-conspirator the group who would go on and assassinate President Abraham Lincon? This is basis of Robert Redford’s latest directorial effort The Conspirator.
Its the tail end of the American Civil War, 1865 peace seems to be returning to the streets of America, we have Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) a decorated young army officer who is on the brink of exchanging his riffle for law books returning to his main job working for a legal practice and about to be thrown into the deep end. As things are starting to look up the nation is shaken once again not by war but by the bloody assassination of Abe Lincon by actor John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebell) but in no time Booth and his 6 Co-Conspirators are captured and find themselves in chains on trail in front of a Military Tribunal thanks to War Of Secretary Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) demanding a quick trial and verdict to appease the public. History defines Booth was the guilty party with the help of his 6 cronies however one of those 6 rounded up was a woman Mary Suratt (Robin Wright) a civilian whose only crime was been the Mother of one of the 6 plus the boarding house owner the 6 co-conspired secretly. Aiken a distinguished union man is given the unhealthy task of representing Surratt a Southern woman as well as Catholic, at first Aiken is reluctant to represent Surratt but with the Military Tribunal in place the realisation that vengeance, the justice system not Mary’s involvement with the Military’s gung-ho approach of charge now, ask questions later. Whilst battling with the realisation of his nation’s new’ justice’ and urge for quick revenge Aiken also finds himself battling with his conscience with what’s right, what’s wrong ethically, morally along with the fact he is a true supporter of the Union.
When it comes to historical films they do have a tendency of been too melodramatic, over done on the patriotism but with Mary Surratt trial seems to be the case that shamefully tries to forget about rather than showcase it.The Conspirator is a slow film but it’s not one bogged down with an information overhaul though the pace some people may find tiresome but keep with it and you’ll an engrossing intense affair.The focus of the film is the injustice of a woman who is n’t a soldier a civilian but is judged as a soldier and you can clearly see Robert Redford uses the ‘criminal’ actions of George Bush with his henchmen Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney with there military commission Guantanamo Bay Malachy. It’s really ironic that nowadays we hear every day of real life cases of the injustice of innocent people given the Death penalty people crying out for political intervention but in Surratt’s case it’s the political interference is the reason for her downfall.
If it wasn’t for the fantastic cast The Conspirator would have worked perfectly as a well-orchestrated television film or mini-series. James McAvoy proves he’s an actor who has an ability to play more than mutant professors or undercover cops in Shameless.Robin Wright also gives a well polished convincing performance, a heartfelt reserved character strong in her faith which helps her accept her fate even though she knows the final outcome is wrong. The supporting cast is strong too with most notable standout Kevin Kline as Edwin Stanton the puppet master of the whole fiasco, imposing and frightening.
The Conspirator isn’t the perfect film, politically if your beliefs lean towards the right you will probably cringe at Redford’s liberal laurels including the fact justice and political system should be apart.If you’re like myself a non-American I would suggest a little light reading to maybe help you understand the basics of the plot of this film and then you probably appreciate the fine details making it a more enjoyable viewing.Despite sluggish pace, The Conspirator is a well acted piece of filmmaking, not perfect entertaining enough and if you’re a Law student this film you may want to check out as its bold examination of the American legal system.
★★★1/2 | Paul Devine
Crime, Drama, History | USA, 2010 | 12A(UK) | 24th October 2011 ( DVD, Bluray)| Universal Pictures |Dir::Robert Redford | James McAvoy,Robin Wright,Kevin Kline,Danny Huston