The Conspirator is a docudrama based on the military tribunal that put on trial those accused of being involved in the Lincoln assassination. But how much of this is accurate and how much of this is Hollywood?
The story revolves around the military tribunal trial of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the owner of the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and his cohorts planned the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) is a somewhat self righteous Senator that explains to us that everybody deserves a defense in this country based on our constitution: but guess what? He doesn’t want to do it. (Who would?) He ducks what was supposed to his responsibility and dumps it on young inexperienced lawyer Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), a decommissioned Union officer. Aiken is reluctant to take the job for obvious reasons, but after several discussions with Surratt he begins to question her guilt. While Aiken struggles with Surratt’s guilt in the matter, there is an overriding factor: Is Surratt being railroaded by a military commission trial that is gung-ho on finding her guilty no matter what the evidence is? Is this whole thing just a dog-and-pony show?
Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (Kevin Kline) is dead set on hanging this woman and when Surratt is found guilty by the commission they decide on giving her a sentence of life in prison. Stanton is not pleased with the decision and hangs her anyway. Is this historical fact? If so, how would anybody know this information?
Surratt and her six co-conspirators are hung, while her son who was involved in the assassination has still not been caught.
This movie has contemporary repercussions in that it confronts the issue of military tribunal trials of terrorists. Is this the path we should take? You tell me.
This Robert Redford produced movie is heavy on dialogue, so if you are looking for action, forget it; but if you can turn off the reality shows for a minute and actually use your brain, you will find it intriguing.
My rating: 3 of 5 assassins