Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"The Conspirator"

"The Conspirator" starring Robin Wright ("The Princess Bride" "Forrest Gump" "White Oleander"), James McAvoy ("The Last King of Scotland" "Atonement"), Tom Wilkinson (who seems to be in everything!) and directed by the iconic Robert Redford, is a good solid film that could have been great.  "The Conspirator" tells the story of Mary Surratt, a boardinghouse owner who was tried and convicted as a co-conspirator in the assassination plot to kill President Abraham Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward.  She became the first woman to be executed in the United States.  She was hung on July 7, 1865.  Robin Wright is excellent as Mary Surratt.  She plays the role with such subtlety and intensity that you feel her anguish and confusion as a visceral kind of pain.  Robin Wright has always been a tremendously talented actress who has not been given starring roles and I hope that this turn as Mary Surratt wakes up Hollywood to her true talent.  James McAvoy is also very good as the young lawyer, Frederick Aiken, who is called upon to defend Mary despite his belief that she is guilty.  As the trial unfolds, Frederick discovers that there is another conspiracy at work and that is to convict and execute Mary Surratt in place of her son, the real co-conspirator, who has disappeared. Frederick becomes personally involved and does his very best to provide a defense for Mary but he soon realizes that he is fighting a corrupt prosecutor (played by the great character actor, Danny Huston) and a government that is looking to bring a swift end to the tragedy of Abraham Lincoln's death.  Robert Redford shows us what life may have looked like in 1865 by shooting scenes in semi-darkness and through filtered lenses to make the atmosphere look dusty and sepia-toned.  The costumes of the day are very well done and overall, the film seems a true representation of its time period.  However, there is something missing.  I am not sure if it is just too cold of a film, or if it is that the actors do not quite gel together, but I came out of the theatre slightly disappointed.  I also have not thought about the film much since I saw it Mother's Day weekend and that is always a true test for me.  If a film does not stay with me and cause me to think about it, then for me it missed the mark on an emotional level, whether those emotions are happiness, sadness, hilarity, joy or fright.  I do recommend it, though, as a glimpse into an event in our history that has been swept aside.  It's not a pretty representation of our government at work but it is a true story that should be told.  

No comments:

Post a Comment