Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Conspirator

The Conspirator

My Rating:  ★★★☆☆

The recently released historical drama, The Conspirator, deals with the events immediately following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.  Seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State.  The woman, Mary Suratt (Robin Wright), is a southerner and the owner of a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and his colleagues meet and plan these attacks.   A 27-year-old Union war hero and unproven lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), reluctantly agrees to take up Suratt’s case and defend her against the highly prejudiced and revenge-hungry United States government.  Aiken is almost as certain of Suratt’s guilt as the rest of the nation until he starts to uncover evidence that suggests otherwise.  The only apparent incrimination against Suratt is that her son, John, was actually a part of Booth’s group.  Despite Aiken spirited defense and courageous attempts to literally save her life, Surratt is found guilty and the first woman to be executed by the United States government. 

Right off the bat, I felt that there were some slight casting issues with this film.  I truly am an Alexis Bledel fan, but she did not belong in this picture at all.  Her acting was painfully stiff, and there was absolutely no chemistry between her and James McAvoy.  I was relieved that her scenes were few and her final exit came long before the end.  It could be that I am just used to seeing Justin Long in less serious films, but I think his role might have been cast with someone else as well.  There was much less to complain about with his performance, but it still just didn’t feel quite right.  Robin Wright and James McAvoy were amazing, however, and that was the movie’s redemption!

The pace of the film was also quite slow.  I have the greatest admiration and respect for all things history.  This story was wonderfully researched and stunningly filmed, but I quickly realized it was not something I wanted to endure at 11:30PM!  It is a perfect piece to take in while in the comfort of your own home—where you are free to take a couple quick, refreshing breaks (or naps)!!  All the action is packed into the beginning while the rest is basically dusty courtroom drama. 

From an entertainment standpoint, The Conspirator left me wanting that little something extra.  It would unquestionably make for a wonderful history lesson in the classroom and an enlightening lazy afternoon at home.  I just wish I hadn’t dropped $20 and our coveted date night on it, but it is something I would consider adding to my personal movie collection.