The Conspirator

(2010)

Genres: Drama

Review: The Conspirator

Transcript for Review: The Conspirator

CHRISTY LEMIRE:
That's a scene from "The Conspirator," the latest film from Robert Redford. It explores an event in American history that most of us probably never knew about -- the trial of Mary Surratt, a boarding house owner whose son was suspected of helping John Wilkes Booth assassinate Abraham Lincoln.  James McAvoy plays Frederick Aiken, the lawyer assigned to defend Mary, played by Robin Wright.

Clip 2 -- Aiken asks Mary where her son is


The idealistic Aiken says he doesn't know whether Mary is guilty, but he feels she deserves a fair trial. The entire nation is against her -- and against him, too, by association. But Kevin Kline, as the power-hungry secretary of war, makes it clear that someone must pay for the president's death.

Clip 6 -- Aiken accuses Stanton of only wanting revenge



"The Conspirator" is stately and respectable to a fault -- it's too safe. Sure, it's got an excellent, pedigreed cast including Tom Wilkinson, Colm Meaney, Danny Huston and Stephen Root in one great scene. But I walked away feeling like I'd just been lectured to, and not inspired. 

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
Well you know this is going to make some High School history teacher really happy because he won’t have to teach class for four days, you know they just get to show a DVD.

CHRISTY:
From Robert Redford of all people; it’s respectable.

IGNATIY:
From Robert Redford of all people.  Watching this film, one thing that came to mind over and over again to me is that this is exactly the kind of material that say Clint Eastwood is able to turn into really nuanced explorations of national identity and history, but the problem is that it’s really heavy handed and he really doesn’t attempt to you know, control his cast and kind of move them towards a single goal.  It’s all over the place.

CHRISTY:
Yeah there’s not a lot of subtelties here in the performances.  Robin Wright is always the proud martyr and James McAvoy is always indignant and Kevin Kline is always kind of mustache twirling and villainy, and then there’s Justin Long, speaking of mustaches.

IGNATIY:
I would you know, alternate title for this film is Justin Long Reaction Shot: the movie. Justin Long who plays a civil war veteran in this movie who wears a terrible fake mustache.  He looks like he belongs in an SNL skit about the Civel War.

CHRISTY:
Yeah, too contemporary.  And Redford shoots all the interiors the exact same way.  The rooms are all dark with like the slats of misty light coming through.  It’s suffocating.