Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life.
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
In the wake of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary of State. The lone woman charged, Mary Surratt, 42, owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks. Against the ominous back-drop of post-Civil War Washington, newly-minted lawyer, Frederick Aiken, a 28-year-old Union war-hero, reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal. As the trial unfolds, Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait and hostage in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her own son. Written by
The Conspiritor uses an event that happened 150 years ago to tell a story which is all too familiar in our time. The backdrop off a shocking, sad event and the following massive public outcry pushes the powers to be to extreme measures, which they stand by because they feel to be forced to do or because they really believe it to be the only right thing.
Robert Redford has been well known for his political views and has displayed them already in the somewhat uneven Lions for Lambs. I like filmmakers who speak out. I can maybe not always agree, but I wholeheartedly admire that in this time of mindless action drivel like Transformers, Drive Angry and The Mechanic there is still hope for without trying to be arrogant: meaningful films. Redford uses the assassination of Lincoln to portray a nation in mourning and sadness. The Civil War was all but over and the policymakers were already planning the next step: the forming of a real Union. The assassination of Lincoln endangered the entire Union. The people wanted revenge and Edwin Stanton (an excellent Kevin Kline) serves it cold. Since her son is nowhere to be found anywhere, he settles for the next thing: his mother Mary Surrat. 'I don't care which one it is, as long as one of them pays the price'. Young Frederick Alken (James McAvoy) has the ungrateful task of defending her.
I don't know much about the Civil War and the period after that, so I can't say how accurate this film is. But what I can say is that it's a masterpiece in creating a period not so distant from our current world. If you replace the assassination of Lincoln with the 9/11-attacks, you have a film that stands firm. It asks relevant questions and holds a mirror right up to our faces. Are seeing clearly? In the sadness and outrage of such a shocking event, do we still see clearly what's going on? Do we still, as a people, have perspective enough to define friend from foe from guilty to innocent? Do our leaders have the capability, strength and courage to make us see or tell us 'no' when we are wrong? Or do policies, political views or elections hold them back and make them just give the public what they want? Mary Surrat, Lincoln, Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Bush, Edward Stanton, Abu Grahib, post Civil War Washington, Guantanomo Bay. History repeats itself over and over again. When will we learn? Guilty or innocent. Is it important? Do we care? I give this film 8 out of 10.
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