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.
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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 look of the film was influenced by early photographs of the period, many of which tried to introduce elements of color over sepia. Director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel attempted to emulate that look while restricting the use of bright, artificial light. See more »
The assassination attempt of William Henry Seward is almost totally incorrect. A servant met Lewis Powell, who was pretending to bring Steward medicine, at the door and tried to stop him from entering. Fred told Powell to come back later because his father was asleep. Fanny, who had dark haired, opened the door to tell Fred that their father was awake. Fred closed the door on her and turned back to Powell, who shot at his head. The gun misfired and he bashed Fred's skull in, leaving a hole and exposing his brain. Powell entered the dark room and shoved Fanny aside as she tried to stop him from attacking Seward. He began stabbing Seward, whose jaw splint deflected the blows somewhat, saving his life. Seward managed to roll off the bed and under it before losing consciousness. Gus and the soldier nurse entered and fought with Powell, who stabbed both about 7 times each before fleeing the scene. See more »
Two men standing at the Pearly Gates. The first man says, "How'd you die?" Second says, "I froze to death. How 'bout you?" And the, uh, second man says, "Well, I thought my... my wife was being unfaithful to me, so I ran all the way home. And burst into the bedroom. She just..."
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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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