The Conspirator (2010)

Film: The Conspirator
Release: 2010, Theatrical
Starring: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline
Directed by: Robert Redford
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In 1865, The young attorney Frederick Aiken is given his first case - defending one of the accused conspirators of the murder of Abraham Lincoln, and a plot to kill his vice-president and the secretary of state.

Hans' thoughts:

These last few years, the Civil War and every subject surrounding it has been a popular thing to put on the silver screen. Among others were three separate Lincoln biography movies (two of which were purely fantasy), a cowboy revenge movie about slavery, and this. This movie quickly sets a somber tone, the first ten minutes are the conspirators to kill the president being rounded up, and an reenactment of the death of John Wilkes Booth in a burning barn (yes, that actually happened). Our main characters are the young attorney Frederick Aiken, just returned from fighting in the civil war as a captain on the side of the Union and Mary Surratt, the only female accused.

In a way, this movie reminded me of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It had the same basic premise, a critical attorney is made to defend an accused that seems guilty by any stretch of their imagination but becomes more and more turned to believe the client is innocent while both parties learn something about themselves in the process. The movie even had Tom Wilkinson running around, making the connection even harder to abstain from. Actually, recalling every movie I've seen about attorneys, this was pretty formulaic.

The tone of the movie, as well as the injustices the characters face makes it hard not to make the connection between the events of the movie and the aftermath of 9/11, with a lot of civil liberties being set aside for the sake of revenge in war times and the atmosphere that was in the air in the time. Indeed, the kind of atmosphere that shows up after every massive tragic event. People make up their minds about the ones involved, demonizing everything without knowing the complete picture. A subject matter the Danish movie The Hunt also tackled recently albeit in a much darker and emotionally draining way. This is of course, free association. But the connection definitely feels accurate.

However, by the standards of these types of movies this was executed perfectly. It presented the historical events that was the movie's subject matter in a simple but compelling way, teaching about the reality of the case. If a bit preachy at certain points. The movie is just historically accurate enough to not suck out the entertainment value of the film. I'd wager a lot of people could get curious about the events after watching this movie - so in that regard, it does it's job. As I said though, the movie can get a bit preachy at points, making the other side of the case seem almost cartoonishly evil at points. This movie has a message to tell, and at times it can get a bit desperate to make sure we get the point.
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