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The Conspirator (2011)



Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 168
Fresh: 93 | Rotten: 75

The Conspirator is well cast and tells a worthy story, but many viewers will lack the patience for Redford's deliberate, stagebound approach.


Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 45
Fresh: 26 | Rotten: 19

The Conspirator is well cast and tells a worthy story, but many viewers will lack the patience for Redford's deliberate, stagebound approach.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 20,877


My Rating

Movie Info

In the wake of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. The lone woman charged, Mary Surratt (Wright) owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks. Against the ominous back-drop of post-Civil War Washington, newly-minted lawyer, Frederick Aiken (McAvoy), a 28-year-old Union war-hero, reluctantly agrees to



Aug 16, 2011


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All Critics (169) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (93) | Rotten (75) | DVD (6)

Atmospheric, illuminating and affecting, The Conspirator captivates like an untold story -- one that you can't believe you've never heard until now, and won't soon forget.

May 6, 2011 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Once the ideological cat is out of the bag, the drama is degraded to the level of a historical pageant.

April 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Comment (1)
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Leaves us feeling as empty as a raided tomb.

April 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A bracing courtroom drama whose every scene seems wreathed in mist, dust motes and cigar smoke, the better to suggest a nation befogged by grief.

April 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Newsday
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There's a stiffness that keeps the story from packing a punch. Still, it's handsomely mounted, and at its best moments has the patina of a Masterpiece Theater production.

April 17, 2011 Full Review Source: USA Today | Comment (1)
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The nightmare of Lincoln's assassination, and its immediate aftermath, is effectively delivered, and Wright, shrouded in black, her face a mask of indomitable sorrow, gives great gravity to what might otherwise have been a waxworks historical reenactment.

April 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Robert Redford teams with The American Film Company for The Conspirator, a project better left to the History Channel than the big screen.

April 21, 2013 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

Wonderfully cast and carefully shot, there's barely a hint of a great filmmaker working with a fraction of his normal budget in this period piece...

January 12, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

If nothing else, this is certain to have a long life playing in middle school history classes for decades to come.

January 30, 2012 Full Review Source:

The Conspirator deserves a lot more praise than it got on initial release: yes it is slow in parts and even provocatively tentative, but it is intricately crafted, a wonderful example of precision and attention to detail.

January 2, 2012 Full Review Source: What Culture
What Culture

full review at Movies for the Masses

December 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Movies for the Masses
Movies for the Masses

While the film is pretty heavy-handed in framing the story in political terms, it is a compelling historical drama that will be news to many Americans.

November 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

The Conspirator conveys the heaviness of its story and its setting -- a torn nation desperate to heal the lingering wounds on both sides after the close of the Civil War.

September 9, 2011 Full Review Source: American Profile
American Profile

A talky and often-stodgy film that will please history buffs but leave ordinary viewers a touch cold.

August 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune | Comment (1)

Not one to shy away from political themes (after all, he starred in "The Candidate," "All the President's Men" and "Lions for Lambs,"...Redford can't help but make us think about the times we live in now.

August 16, 2011 Full Review Source: MediaMikes

The first half hour feels too much like a history lesson but from thereon in, The Conspirator is a compelling drama.

August 1, 2011 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

Robert Redford's courtroom drama about the trial of Mary Surratt after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is both a gripping drama and a rather stuffy flag-waving exercise.

July 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Screenwize

This does not feel like a real movie. It is an 'epic' along the lines of Entourage's Medellin, or 30 Rock's The Rural Juror.

July 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Quickflix

It works on every level as an engaging drama with high stakes

July 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

A fascinating piece of history gets buried in the telling of this rather turgid courtroom drama that explores issues of principle, justice and protecting the rights of the innocent

July 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Drama offers a fresh twist on an infamous episode in American history

July 19, 2011 Full Review Source:

Superb performances from James McAvoy and Robin Wright Penn alongside an increasingly focused narrative ensure that The Conspirator ultimately proves to be a rewarding experience with a powerful message.

July 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

Redford sows the seeds of the film's downfall early on by botching the killing itself. It's confusing, badly constructed and lacking in both purpose and tension.

July 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Birmingham Mail
Birmingham Mail

With its dense examination of legal philosophy, it's probably going to interest law graduates more than anyone else, but for the patient viewer, The Conspirator is a treat of performance and benefits from Robert Redford's typically stately direction.

July 4, 2011 Full Review Source: What Culture
What Culture

What should be an exciting courtoom thriller with intriguing contemporary parallels plays likes laborious and self-important TV movie.

July 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

It unfurls as a stodgy courtroom drama, in which everyone looks like an early photograph.

July 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Audience Reviews for The Conspirator

The film portrays the aftermath of Lincolns murder; the trial of those who were caught in the act. However, the focus here is on the defense of Mary Surratt, the mother of one of the suspects who allegedly escapes the crime scene.successfully, The execution of the movie is quite conventional, but its roller-coaster story makes it watchable enough. Of course, it wont be all the same interesting for those of us who are well versed with history (or, for that matter, any subject as far as I'm concerned). The courtroom dramas are usually known for their fiery dialogues/sequences, but there's hardly any here. All these deficiencies, coupled with average performances, doesn't let the movie rise above mediocrity. All in all, its a passable fare. The conspiracy to kill the President followed by the conspiracy to send a seemingly innocent woman to gallows only goes on to prove how aptly the flick is titled. If only it were equally great in other departments too......... 4.5/10
April 20, 2013

Super Reviewer

Robert Redford directs this film about the trial of Mary Surrat, one of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination, and it's parallels to our own modern day government's suspension of habeas corpus at guantanamo bay. A young union war hero/attorney named Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is assigned to defend Surrat at her trial, even though it's against his will to do so. As the tribunal progresses however, Aiken is struck by the unconstitutional nature of her prosecution: from the military tribunal for a civilian case, to the lack of a burden of proof, the witness tampering and evidence-manipulating, Surrat's guilt is a foregone conclusion from the very start. Much of the blame for this could be aimed at Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline), who, in his fevered bereavement and loyalty to Lincoln and the Union, takes a hard stance at ensuring justice be meted out whatever the cost. Yes, as I said before, the film is meant to parallel our own time, as a national tragedy stirs the government to overreact and suspend our rights in the name of "protecting" us. While the film is adequately made, it lacks subtlety. Even if it's making valid points, the performances rarely rise above a basic cable melodrama.
February 17, 2012
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

I was really impressed. Despite the lack of explosions, it manages to remain riveting. It's a really interesting slice of American history that gets buried under all the other fluff, and despite some tricky subject matter, allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions.
November 27, 2011

Super Reviewer

This is the debut film from the American Film Company- a production company who has made it there goal to produce history based films with a high level of accuracy, yet still be accessible. The stroy here concerns the trial of Mary E. Surratt, the lone female accused of being a conspirator in the plot to assassinate Agraham Lincoln.

What I found interesting about this film is that, surprisingly enough, it covered something I was not actually familiar with, because for some odd reason, this part of Civil War and post Civil War history was never something any of my teachers or professors ever felt the need to bring to students's attentions.

This is a really intriguing story, and not just because courtroom dramas are cool, but because of a lot fo the context surrounding the plot and the trial. This is not a cut and dried story, but a rather complex and well developed set of conflicts, mostly involving Surratt's lawyer reluctantly deciding to represent her, mostly because he is a Union war hero, and defending her puts him in one of the most unenviable positions you could think of. Despite his reluctance, he begins to see that there is more to her story, and also more to the reasons for why there seems to be a conspiracy against her.

This film had three historical consultants, and it shows .The dialogue, costumes, and sets are top notch. There are still some liberties and inaccuracies of course, but the film is more competant in it's goal for accuracy than it could have been. Being that Robert Redford directed this, it is a well-balanced film that is never one sided or thinly sketched. Also thansk to him, it tries to do more than just capture a certain historical event, as can be seen as a condemnation of current military tribunals against Islamic terrorists. This last little bit, though not unwarranted, isn't really necessary.

Probably the most significant thing about this film is its cast. Robin Wright is wonderful in a very nicely observed performance as Surratt. It's a shame she's not given higher regard as an actress because she has a lot of talent. James McAvoy is also quite strong as her lawyer Frederick Aiken. The rest of the cast is overflowing with many notable names, even if some of them just show up for a scene or two then leave. Among them are Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline, Danny Huston, Colm Meaney, Alexis Bledel, and Justin Long. There's really not a bad lot in the bunch, though Long and Bledel do slightly overact a bit.

Aside from a few minor but expected gripes about inaccuracy, the slight overacting, and the occasional overbearing "dramaticness" of this film, I'm quite pleased with it. The only major concern I have, and it's no small thing, is the film's pace. It's too slow, drags the films out, and makes it feel a lot longer. Thankfully the film is never boring, and there's a lot going on to make one think and keep them engaged, but yeah, this could have been less sluggish and a bit tighter.

All in all, quite a nice film. I mean, I expect decent things from Redford, but this, especially since it concerned something I wasn't familiar with, really caught me off guard and left me feeling pleasantly surprised. You should give it a watch.
October 5, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Frederick Aiken: For the lawyer as well as a soldier, there is an equally imperative command. That duty is to shelter from injustice, the innocent, to protect the weak from oppression and when necessity demands, to rally to the defense of those being wronged...
    – Submitted by Manas P (2 years ago)
    1. Joseph Holt: Was this the man? [grabs a head of one of the Conspirators]
    2. General David Hunter: No sir.
    3. Joseph Holt: [he stands stunned, then realizing his mistake, he grabs another conspirator] Was this the man?
    4. General David Hunter: Yes sir.
    – Submitted by Grieg E (2 years ago)
    1. Frederick Aiken: It's not enough, is it Mr. Holt? It's not enough that you set the rules, you pick the judges. Now you have to turn my witness as well.
    2. General David Hunter: Counselor control yourself.
    3. Frederick Aiken: Control the prosecution! Every witness I wish to call has been turned by jail or the threat of it!
    4. General David Hunter: Counselor I'm warning you...
    5. Frederick Aiken: There is no limit to how far the prosecution is willing to go!
    6. General David Hunter: That's enough!
    – Submitted by Anna B (3 years ago)
    1. Frederick Aiken: I'm just upholding my oath as an attorney and doing my job. That's what you asked, that's what you TOLD me to do.
    2. Reverdy Johnson: This quoting me back to me can become most irritating. You have your mother's convictions and your father's annoying habits.
    – Submitted by Anna B (3 years ago)
    1. Mary Surratt: Have you ever cared for something greater than yourself?
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Frederick Aiken: There is no limit to how far the prosecution is willing to go!
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (6)

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