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
I was reluctant to see "The Conspirator" because it has racked up a critical consensus of a kind I dislike: the film is said to be cold-hearted, and to make political points with a heavy hand. Neither of these, happily, turns out to be true. The film is utterly impassioned, and its interest for today is nicely noted without being too underlined. Nearly every element one wants in a great film is there: visual beauty, strong acting, fine pacing, stirring and well-made music. But there is a flaw. The creators have taken their creation too seriously. There's not a shaft of levity or humor anywhere. A requirement for great art is thereby missed. It doesn't matter how somber the subject is supposed to be. King Lear has his fool; even Wagner's ultra-dark Ring cycle has its powerful currents of humor. It's got to be there; otherwise, the whole organism suffers. I think this is the weakness to which reviewers have responded, even if none of them has precisely named it. On that ground, the film falls short of greatness; but in every other respect it approaches or achieves greatness. "The Conspirator" is hugely recommendable and I will certainly see it again.
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