The Conspirator

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Rating: 3 ½ / 5 Stars
By: Samantha Relph, Cinema Manager

Tells of 42 year old Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) who was implicated and placed on trial for conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln. On the aftermath of the civil war, the President’s assassination left a nation divided and angry and vengeance was sought.

Mary’s story is probably a lesser-known chapter in American history, a widow whose boarding-house was used as a meeting place for the conspirators, she was the lone female of seven co-defendants tried by military tribunal. We learn that the traitors were invited to her house by her son, John, and that perhaps part of the prosecution strategy was to lure him out of hiding.

With hatred for her building, we sense a “fait accompli” until Fredrick Aiken (James McAvoy), a decommissioned captain of the Union Army steps in as counsel. Initially reluctant to be involved, he is torn between his hatred for the South and his duty to the law, but soon he becomes passionately dedicated to proving Mary’s innocence.

Caught in the middle is Mary’s daughter, Anna. Virtually a prisoner herself, she is in danger in her own home. She is eventually called to testify for the defence but in doing so has to incriminate her brother.

Mary’s tale is of a mother who would go to any length to protect her family. The Conspirator is a riveting court room drama which shows us flashbacks as the story unfolds and keeps the suspense going until the very end. Directed by Robert Redford, with authentic costumes and a real sense of era, this movie has a good broad appeal. McAvoy stands out as a man torn between justice for his client and his own beliefs.

Rated M (Contains Violence)