The Conspirator

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The Conspirator (2010)

Directed by Robert Redford

Starring: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood

In the days and weeks after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln the United States is in a frenzy. Mary Surratt (Wright) is soon determined to be one of the conspirators who helped to plan and carry out the assassination of the President. Attorney Frederick Aiken (McAvoy) is assigned to defend Surratt when the trial begins in a military court. Aiken is tasked with defending the indefensible, a woman who has already been convicted by public opinion. As he digs, Aiken begins to see the truth about her relationship to the conspirators.

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Robert Redford (A River Runs Through It) has been in the movie business for a long time. He seems to have a feel for creating an era in his movies. The sets and costumes feel genuine and perfect for the story he’s trying to tell. This movie is no different. In addition to great sets he’s also got a big cast led by James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland) and Robin Wright (Forrest Gump). The film also features Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), and Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March).

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The acting in this movie is pretty good. The main plot follows Aiken (McAvoy) throughout the defense of Mary Surratt. McAvoy and Wright really carry the action well. They have an interesting chemistry that works nicely throughout the movie. Unfortunately the movie also features some less than stellar work by some surprising actors. Kevin Kline really falls flat with his role, making some important moments almost laughable. In the end, the balance of good performances and poor ones seems to level off for a film that feels mediocre.

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I’ve always been interested in the history behind this movie. The real story is a powerful look at the reaction of a nation over the loss of a very polarizing leader. Unfortunately the writers of this film were not as interested in the history. This doesn’t kill the movie, but if you’re looking for history this film will disappoint. There is a lot of fact in this movie, but it also takes liberties with some of the events.

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This movie just doesn’t hold up as much more than a politicized look at a historical event. In the wake of 9/11 this film was made with an agenda that shines through with disappointing results. Despite some poignant moments from a few of the stars I don’t think this is one to recommend to anyone. Still, if you like history or either of the two stars you might want to see this film. I give this one 1.8 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 122 minutes


    1. I felt that Redford didn’t study the history well enough. He was also a bit heavy handed with the political undertones. Still good work, just not a complete movie for me.


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