The Captivating Conspirator

The Conspirator, starring James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline, Justin Long, and other recognizable actors, details the accounts of the hunt for and trial of the alleged guilty parties involved in the assassination plot against President Abraham Lincoln and others.

Here’s the trailer:

Defense lawyer and Civil War veteran Frederick Aiken reluctantly defends accused conspirator Mary Suratt in an historic trial with a verdict already presumed and “decided.” Aiken, played by McAvoy, must defend his client and in doing so, alienates him from friends, family, and his own previous beliefs and assumptions. This historical drams/mystery captivates the audience emotionally, inquisitively, and intriguingly and, overall, it does not let go…even once the screen fades to black.

The actors project the emotions portrayed in the film onto the viewers in a fashion that enables the experience, frustrations, and exhaustions of the characters to be shared. Emotions run high as The Conspirator captures audiences in its web of manipulation, truthbending, and coverups, and thus makes the audience PART of the movie. Speaking of the actors it pleases me to see Kevin Kline in a time period piece that suits him (as opposed to Wild Wild West). Kline plays the part of “conviction hungry” Secretary of War Edwin Stanton quite convincingly. (Leading to the unmentioned theme of the legal system conspirators involved in acquiring any conviction -just or unjust- in this case). 

Other actors that performed admirably (aside from the amazing McAvoy): Tom Wilkinson, Colm Meaney, Evan Rachel Wood, and Robin Wright all find ways to make the audience empathize and/or sympathize with the events in the film. 

Having studied history in college, I was glad to see the inclusion of some of the lesser-known facts and people mentioned in the film such as Dr. Samuel Mudd -the physician whom Booth happened upon while on the run. Mudd, staying true to his medicinal oath, helped Booth heal up his broken leg which he sustained after jumping from the balcony down to the stage of Ford’s Theater. Mudd, unaware of Booth’s identity, subsequently found himself on trial as a co-conspirator for aiding and abetting a fugitive. While not sentenced to death, Mudd served prison time and, when released, quietly retired at his residence to live out the rest of his days. Though innocent of conspiracy, his name never truly received exoneration and it is from these events that the phrase “His name is mud!” comes from and gathers its meaning.

Redford excelled in bringing to light several widely unknown happenings which took place….almost to a fault though. One might find themself losing interest in parts of the film. It almost seems as if Redford expected as much and included Justin Long’s character for the sole purpose of slight comic relief to bridge the attention gap. The Conspirator remains quite Eastwoodian in its style, appearance, and emotion…however, Redford fails to allow a sufficient amount of connection to any of the characters in the story, save Frederick Aiken (McAvoy).

Director Robert Redford with Actor James McAvoy

Aiken remains the one character in the film which goes through any sort of development/change. All of the rest of the characters are static and not developed enough. In a film that focuses on conspiracy and the involvement of multiple players in a plot, adequate (but not necessarily equal) attention must be paid to all parties. Unfortunately, as the tale draws to a close, one senses a feeling of no resolution. The drama and emotion builds throughout the film, but lets off unexpectedly leaving the audience unsure of how to feel.

The Conspirator: A captivating historical drama of crime, law, and order (or the lack thereof), that now grasps the emotion and attention of audiences as much as the tale itself did 146 years ago up ’til now.

Did you know? Ironically (or appropriately), this film opened during the same week of the anniversary of the American Civil War’s beginning (April 12, 1861) AND on the same day as the anniversary of Lincoln’s death (April 15, 1865). Booth shot Lincoln on the night of the 14th, however, Lincoln died the following morning on the 15th and The Conspirator opened in theaters on the 15th as well!

Thanks for reading!

Enjoy if you wish…or don’t enjoy! Happy Watching!

TheSp1der’s Score3.5 out of 5 stars for “The Conspirator” 

up next: Review for Arthur, followed by “Trailer Time Thursday!”

One comment

  1. How’ve you been T? Hope all is well, haven’t heard from you for quite a while. Anyway, sorry I haven’t got a a chance to read this review closely, but glad you liked it. It sounds more like a rental to me even though I like the cast.


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