• PG-13, 2 hr. 2 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Robert Redford
    In Theaters:
    Apr 15, 2011 Wide
    On DVD:
    Aug 16, 2011
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The Conspirator Reviews

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familiar s

Super Reviewer

April 20, 2013
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
Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

February 17, 2012
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.
Summer W

Super Reviewer

April 13, 2011
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.
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

April 6, 2011
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.
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

September 9, 2011
Not the fastest pace, most exciting movie around, but well done and EXTREMELY interesting all the same. This is a part of our history that I have never heard about before. It is quite astounding what happened during this time, AND even MORE astounding what happened afterwards. Kudos to Robert Redford's talent at delivering a really good story....true or not.
bbcfloridabound
bbcfloridabound

Super Reviewer

September 18, 2011
Awesome Movie, Opened my eyes to parts of history I was never taught or knew about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Directed by Robert redford, Worth every bit of 5 stars
TheDudeLebowski65
TheDudeLebowski65

Super Reviewer

April 20, 2011
Being fascinated with history, I was very much looking forward in watching The Conspirator. This dramatic Thriller recounts the trial of the conspirators of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. One of them being Mary Surratt, the first woman to be executed in United States history. Surrat is brilliantly played by actress Robin Wright. The Conspirators has an amazing cast of talented actors starring opposite Wright. James McAvoy delivers a stunning performance as Frederick Aiken, the man appointed by Reverdy Johnson played Tom Wilkinson. The Conspirator is a well thought drama film that even though we know the outcome, its still riveting until the final moments of the film. The cast do a remarkable job here, and the story, though a bit heavy on the dramatic side, manages to be quite entertaining, and engrossing. The film is of course not that accurate, but a lot of it is, as I've read plenty of information on the subject, and watched a documentary on the plot to kill Lincoln, and its pretty close. This film is underrated, and though it's not perfect; it still a very good film supported by one great cast of talented actors. I personally think films like these, though not 100% accurate can open someone's mind, and peak their interest in the subject. The Conspirator is a well executed drama with a great cast and an astounding true story. The film like I said is not 100% accurate because of course the filmmakers have to make it thrilling for the viewer, but for the most part, director Robert Redford captured a unique part of American History on film even if at times the accuracy is in question, most of the content is real to the actual events. If you enjoy a good historical drama, then check this one out. Not perfect, but nonetheless very good.
jjnxn
jjnxn

Super Reviewer

August 16, 2011
Well made but grim retelling of the railroading of Mary Surratt in the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination.
CloudStrife84
CloudStrife84

Super Reviewer

April 14, 2011
Highly intriguing drama, about the aftermath following the assassination of U.S president Abraham Lincoln. Marvellous actors like James McAvoy, Robin Wright and Kevin Kline - employed to their full potential by the grace of a splendidly written script - makes this a compelling history piece, somewhat above the usual norm. Unfolding in a sophisticated fashion, the events that we become witness to are very interesting to follow. Particularily as I didn't have much prior knowledge of it, aside from the infamous incident at Ford's Theatre in Washington. If I'm gonna make note of its lesser sides, the first thing to bring to the table would be the inconsistent pacing. There are times when things get too talky for the story's own benifit, in which moments you may feel a little drowsy in the eyes. Or as Elvis so eloquently put it: "A little less conversation, a little more action please". Furthermore, it suffers from a very narrow color scheme, ranging from dark and foggy to various shades of brown. Granted that it's set in an era where electricity wasn't commonplace, but some better lighting and a little more contrast sure wouldn't have hurt. Other than that though, it's a fully credible enactment of this time of great tragedy and nation-wide unrest. A gratifying amuse-bouche in wait for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which I'm hoping will provide even better insight to the life and historic deeds of the "Great Emancipator".
Sophie B

Super Reviewer

July 15, 2011
A brilliant and harrowing film documenting a tragic and difficult time in American history. Brilliant performances especially from McAvoy and Wright Penn. I love this period of time and it was interesting to find out about a subject I know nothing about. I did feel that I was expected to have a basic knowledge of the events which was rather annoying and sometimes made it difficult to follow.
Willy T
Willy T

Super Reviewer

May 23, 2011
This movie came out of left field for me. I had no idea what it really was about until my Dad took me to see it. It's a story of the trials of the killers of Abraham Lincoln. One bullet killed Lincoln but not one man. Mary Surratt is strongly accused of taking part in this plot to murder the president and the film's focus is mainly on her. This is because she owned a boarding house and let John Wilkes Booth and his followers stay there before the murder of Lincoln. Did she help conceive the plot? Nobody knows for sure. That's up to the viewer. The movie is very emotionally-packed, almost too much. There are too many scenes of people's emotions boiling over in a court room. It's interesting at first but the movie makes itself too dramatic. The performances in this movie are fantastic. In fact, this is probably James McAvoy's best performance in terms of emotional depth and complex characteristics. He makes this movie what it is. Without him the movie would be below average. I would rather have seen a movie about Abraham Lincoln's life than see a courtroom drama about a time period after he's gone. I know it's been done before but I want to see a film about Lincoln himself, a new one, a more modern one. Not a biography or documentary, but a movie with actors. In this movie Abraham doesn't have any lines and we barely even see him. I bet Tom Hanks playing Lincoln and Steven Spielberg directing could make for a great movie. Anyone agree?
Alice S

Super Reviewer

May 23, 2011
Robin Wright Penn is so underrated as an actress. Her raspy Southern accent, her tired squint, her brave trepidation - simply commanding. James McAvoy isn't bad although his character IS the prototypical lawyer-gone-good. His American accent is rather spot-on, if a bit modern at times. And stop rubbing your face! A good actor doesn't need those tricks! I still maintain that ERW overacts, and that's why psychopaths are her bread and butter. Oh Justin Long. Can they not have made him an even sorer thumb in this grave period piece by giving him a hot pink bow tie?

The film is a steadily-paced whodunnit that reveals the motives and convictions of bit players rather than the actual whodidder. It's also a timely-as-hell treatise against the breaking of ethical codes in the name of wartime "justice."
Bill D 2007
Bill D 2007

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2011
Robert Redford's latest film, "The Conspirator," is as plain as its title. It's a morally earnest but artistically thin look at the trial that followed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. John Wilkes Booth, the trigger man, was killed trying to avoid capture, but a half-dozen or so other young men were taken into custody and tried as co-conspirators.

In a fact of history that I had actually not known, the mother of one of the conspirators was tried as well. It was alleged that she aided and abetted the plot by, among other things, allowing her boarding house to be used as command central. The Washington establishment, the film suggests, set up what was essentially a mock trial, preventing lawyers from mounting a legitimate defense. The female defendant, Mary Surratt (played well by Robin Wright), especially appears to have been railroaded.

It's hard to understand what Redford found so compelling about this material. The film serves as a reminder about the need to protect the civil rights of the accused even during times of national crisis. But is that it? Redford essentially gives Surratt her day in court 150 years after the fact. I'm sure her descendants appreciate the homage to her and what she suffered. But it doesn't exactly make for riveting drama. Redford keeps his focus strictly on the trial and the legal issues such that none of the characters emerges as a complex person. It's not so much a work of art as a civics lesson.

"The Conspirator" holds one's interest. It's not a bad film. It's noble and well acted. The script is just too simple and one-dimensional.
Martin B

Super Reviewer

April 15, 2011
Like a History Channel re-enactment, just starring recognizable actors. Not particularly engaging or satisfying.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

April 17, 2011
A superbly crafted movie. Well made from head to toe. Sadly a film from this period is more likely to be passed over for a slightly less interesting story with more suspense and explosions.

The story of Mary Suratt still holds lessons that people can see today about how many people wish freedoms only apply to the situations you want them too. If its inconvenient then it's okay to throw it out a window.

From McAvoy to Penn, to Wood, all the way down to Colm Meany this is a well acted film. And this joins the ranks of my favorite Civil War era films ever.
Jeff T

Super Reviewer

June 5, 2011
Completely respectable and also a little dull, THE CONSPIRATOR plays out like a very special big-screen History Channel movie. The sad part is it starts out so much better, with a real sense of tension and intrigue jumping around inside the chaotic events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. But soon enough, the flick settles into a Law-and-Order-Nineteenth-Century format, including newspaper montages and stirring music, and all sense of fury and momentum is lost. It's a remarkably square movie, that only gets squarer as it goes along. And all this despite intensely good work from Robin Wright and James McAvoy; but it is good work that eventually gets swallowed up in the sentimental mood of the thing. But it all started so much better...
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

April 17, 2011
In the wake of the assassination of President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton(Kevin Kline) takes charge, orchestrating the manhunt that kills John Wilkes Booth(Toby Kebbell) and captures most of the other conspirators, leaving John Surratt(Johnny Simmons) to go free. So, the authorities will have to be satisfied with John's mother, Mary(Robin Wright), and owner of the boarding house where the conspirators met. She is to be judged by a military tribunal and prosecuted by Judge Advocate Joseph Holt(Danny Huston). For the defense, there is Senator Reverdy Johnson(Tom Wilkinson) but he recuses himself because his being from Maryland might hurt any slim chances they might have, turning the defense over to Frederick Aiken(James McAvoy). Mary's only thought is to get a message to her daughter Anna(Evan Rachel Wood).

Directed by Robert Redford, "The Conspirator" is a frustrating, intelligent, and well-intentioned movie that turns a potentially fascinating piece of history into the hoariest of coartroom cliches where a longshot client is forced on a neophyte attorney who does not believe in her at first. And like a lot of other courtroom dramas, it seems more concerned with the lawyer than the defendant which is especially counterproductive here since Robin Wright and Evan Rachel Wood give the best performances in such a notable cast. To be fair, the movie has other things on its mind that make it relevant to modern times but sometimes to the detriment of its own story, making it sound like just another constitutional debate.(To its credit, the movie does not seem to speculate any more than necessary.) Lacking in much insight into the personalities is a shame because I would have been interested in the madness that grips a country after a heinous national crime has been committed.
Sheldon C

Super Reviewer

April 6, 2011
With THE CONSPIRATOR, Robert Redford touches upon a little known event in American history and crafts a meticulous courtroom drama that is classically-structured and firmly-told. Words dominate the film as Redford requires his actors to fulfill the film's powerful emotional conflicts with much subtext and lengthy-but-adequate dialogue. James McAvoy continues to mature as he delivers an outstandingly effective performance.
Fascade F

Super Reviewer

November 21, 2011
Totally and undeniably thought provoking. Mary Surrat (Robin Wright) against all odds REALLY needed BETTER legal representation than what she received prior to her sentence. Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) as her attorney really could have received better assistance from ReverdyJohnson (Tom Wilkinson) in making the attempt to TRY to win the case against his FIRST client. Being a host of a boarding house (hotel) one might think that the owner cannot be held accountable for the actions of the patrons of the establishment....think again. This film re-enacts the events deep in one of the the wounds of our nation's history for you to take another view of what transpired in bits and pieces on the day and after the (very 1st !) assassination of the United State's 16th President, as well as the trial of those that were caught for the heinous crime against the United States. Definitely a must see whether you are a history buff or a suspenseful drama addict, this movie is for you! Please see this timeless epic!
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