‘The Conspirator’: An Interesting Look Back at American History. Review of the 2011 title with James McAvoy and Robin Wright. Text © Rissi JC

‘The Conspirator’: An Interesting Look Back at American History

August 29, 2011 8 Comments

History is always an interesting thing to delve into but it can also be overwhelming to take in. Most of the time, British history holds more of an interest for me than American (this because I love British period productions), but the events surrounding Abraham Lincoln do interest me. History that I have never before explored like this.

The Conspirator (2011) Film Review

Abraham Lincoln has just led a nation through a Civil War as president of the United States. Shortly after the end of the war, a lone bullet fired by a stage actor fatally wounds the president. His assassin is shot to death by a loyal Union soldier, but it doesn’t save the President. With two other men also targets, the vice president and secretary of state, it becomes clear that John Wilkes Booth is not a lone plotter. Following his death, seven men and one woman are arrested on treason. The woman, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) claims innocence before going up against a military tribunal.

Recently back from the battle fields as a war hero, Fredrick Aiken (James McAvoy) returns to his post of attorney, and is chosen by his superior, Senator Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to second chair the case. Before long, the Senator abandons the case leaving sole responsibility to the reluctant union captain. Fred listens to Mary’s story but finds he cannot get her a fair trial. She claims her home was merely used for the meetings, but doubtful of this, Fredrick wrestles with his moral obligation and what is true.

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I was really excited to see this movie for a while now. Not just because it revolves around an important piece of history but because it’s a new period film. I’m not sure how accurate this movie is to the historic events, but there is a look of authenticity in many respects. There’s wonderful costuming as a backdrop for the bigger more important story that unfolds. I like that the movie seems to “come alive” with the settings. All of this compliments the script, but perhaps the biggest accomplishment is its acting, which is phenomenal. James, Robin, Tom and the supporting cast (which consists of Alexis Bledel and Evan Rachel Wood) each give compelling and emotional performances respectively. There wasn’t a weak member among them.  

In the little bits and pieces of reading I did subsequent to seeing the film, there seems to be enough here to assume that writers and director Robert Redford did as accurate a job as can of bringing this story to the screen. There is likely exaggeration in various instances, for dramatic effect, but that’s beside the point. There’s even the accuracy of one conspirator losing nerve. Where the film does stumble is being a bit confusing once the attacks start. We go back-and-forth between three different locations where three men plan to carry out part of the plot to bring down the presidency. In all other respects, the movie is pretty good.

It’s a compelling, gripping story that takes a look at underhanded politics, and how sometimes, truth doesn’t win.  

‘The Conspirator’: An Interesting Look Back at American History. A review of the 2011 #PeriodDrama with James McAvoy and Robin Wright. #Movies #Drama #FWArchives Click To Tweet

Content: the film shows a few battle wounds and in shadows Lincoln’s assassination. Another man is stabbed in a brutal way. The film is PG-13.

About Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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8 Comments

  • Meghan August 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    AAAHH! I SO WANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE!!
    Wanted to in the theater…but maybe On Demand will have to suffice and SOON! (I'm self-confessed Civil War obsessed so you can see where my excitement comes from.)

  • Rissi August 30, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Yeah! My family was curious as to the accuracy of this movie – I'd be interested in your expert opinion Meghan!! I like the Civil War era, but do not know my history like I should.

    Enjoy this movie whenever you see it – it really is very good.

  • Ella August 30, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Do you know, I forgot the title of this film and it took your post to have me remember it?! The commercials had looked so good, but then I forgot about it. (Chalk it up to my never go to theatres mentality)

    It looks really good to me….and WOW, that is an amazing, amazing cast. That alone makes me want to see it

  • Rissi August 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Ella – the cast IS amazing! Or I thought it was. I do not know how historically correct the movie is, but it's an interesting film if nothing else.

  • Ruth September 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I've gotta confess, this movie was a HUGE disappointment for me. I love James McAvoy, and he was supported by several other excellent actors in this film — but pacing, half the cast, and the script and editing just made this movie fall apart for me. I really ended up feeling like it was a huge missed opportunity. I'm glad you enjoyed it though!

  • Rissi September 1, 2011 at 3:05 am

    I am sorry you didn't enjoy this film. It was something my family really liked. It can tend to be a little slow-moving at times but I thought everyone in the cast gave wonderful performances.

    Not everyone likes the same stuff, though. (Hmm… so THAT is why Hollywood continues to make such a wide array of movies! LOL!)

    Maybe someday, Hollywood will get it right and make a truly great historical movie… or maybe not. =D

  • Ruth September 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I've got to confess, I did have the thought that the Brits would've made a much better film version of this. LOL! ;)

  • Rissi September 1, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    You are probably quite right, Ruth. And, really how IRONIC is that!? =D

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