Civil War Movie Review: The Conspirator (2011)

by James Durney on April 29, 2011 · 1 comment

The Conspirator (2011)

Product Details

  • Actors: James McAvoy, Robin Wright
  • Directors: Robert Redford
  • Format: NTSC
  • Studio: Roadside Attractions
  • Run Time: 123 minutes

One is guilty!

The question this film tries to answers is which Surratt is guilty in the murder of President Lincoln.  Is it the mother, Mary, or the son, John?  Did Mary Surratt provide the nest where the assignation plot incubates?  Did John Surratt conspire with and aid the killers?  History provides enough evidence to insure that one or both are guilty.

Historically, a military court finds Mary Surratt guilty and sentences her be hang.  Over a year later, a civilian court finds John not guilty and he is released.  Over the years, more than one person has questioned the verdicts and how the conduct of the trails.

This movie is a feast for those that feel the government murdered Mary Surratt and that her son abandoned her.  Edwin M. Stanton is the villain.  His actions ensure that Mary is condemned to death even as the military court waivers.  How Stanton is able to do this is not shown.  However, there is no question that he is able to force his will on a number of very able men, all generals and several with excellent connections.

Redford avoids any comparisons between 1865 and now.  Any message that the viewer finds in the film is what the viewer wished to find.  There is any number of historical “oops” in the film. Overall, the film recreates the time and the attitudes very well.  The acting is good; most of the actors being second leads that know their business.

This is a straight forward and very good telling of the “Mary was innocent” school of history.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brendan May 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I didn’t feel that this movie’s point was that “Mary was innocent.” We actually never really find out for sure, which underscores the real tragedy. An enduring, all too relevant message of the film is the importance of our right to fair trial, even in times of national crisis. When the principals enshrined in the Bill of Rights are abandoned to give the public peace of mind in the midst of great uncertainty, all we are left with are hanging bodies and lingering questions. In the end, no one wins.

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