A good history lesson is a good history lesson, regardless of what kind of a movie surrounds it. The Conspirator is one such good history lesson, cause we doubt you (or we) know the inner-workings of the conspiracy behind Lincoln’s assassination, or its aftermath, or the rushed (in?)justice of all parties linked to it, or supposedly linked to it. What do you know of Mary Surratt? No, she had nothing to do with A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. She may have had nothing to do with axing Lincoln either, but regardless, was tried for being a conspirator alongside all the real conspirators. Is she really guilty or just guilty by association? So many questions, so few answers, lots of stuffy courtroom drama, and it’s all worth learning about!! There will be a quiz (show), so sharpen those number 2 pencils
The material is right up righteous director Robert Redford‘s alley, and even if the results may not be the 2nd coming of All The President’s Men, what is? Cause the truth is out there, even if the government back then couldn’t handle it, or the exact truth was and remains unknown. The same might be true of today’s prosecution/persecution of terrorists or would be ones!! OOOOOOOH, WHAT MODERN DAY PARALLELS!! And obvious ones too!!
So back to Mrs Surratt (an un-make-upped Robin Wright
-Penn). She had two things working in her disfavor: 1, her son was an accused Lincoln assassination plotter, who fled right after it all went down and thus looking even more guilty, and 2, her house served as a meeting place for all the plotters, including John Wilkes Booth (Sacha Baron Cohen lookish-a-like Toby Kebbell). Besides some questionable testimony by some witnesses (including Stephen Root!!), there’s not much directly linking her in the larger plan, besides being a mother and owning a home. That aint stopping an itchy Lincoln cabinet (Kevin Kline) and military court (Colm Meaney and Danny Huston) from exacting revenge and deciding her purty much pre-determined fate. Who would and could defend such a defenseless woman and winless case?
Enter the reluctant Frederick Aiken (a solid James McAvoy), after his mentor Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, who can never do no acting wrong) quit on this lose-lose situation (if she’s found guilty, you fail as a lawyer, but if you get her off, you’re seen as a traitor to the Union, and the new and uneasy post-Civil War peace). Aiken starts off seeing his client juss like everyone else, beyond guilty, but as the ‘case’ unfolds, he starts to find the proceedings unfair, and most importantly, unjust. He’s now made this lose-lose situation a lose-lose-lose one. Even his trusted war buddies (James Badge Dale, and a way out of place and time Justin Long) and lady-in-waiting (Alexis Bledel) question his motives and actions, but it’s his case to fight, like it or not!!
If you don’t know the outcome of the case, skip the wikipedia entries and jump right into this open for interpretation history book. Heck, you might juss learn something, unlike most movies, which make you un-learn things!!
Evan Rachel Wood co-stars as Mary’s daughter, Anna Surratt, and if yer looking to un-hate her from her NSFW awful daughterness doings in Mildred Pierce [do not click that spolierish link, if you ever intend to watch the mini-series], this juss another excuse for you to serve this summons
History Lives On: you can visit Ford’s Theater (although it barely resembles the theater Lincoln was killed in) or follow Booth’s escape route [pdf] or even eat Chinese food at Mary Surratt’s Boarding House!!!
Verdictgo: Jeepers Worth A Peepers
Conspirator plots it up today at a theater near jews
and until next thyme the balcony is clothed…