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The Conspirator

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PG-13
2010

The 2010 historical period drama, The Conspirator, proves director Robert Redford's adroit handling of complex, historical narratives woven in a manner that is both compelling and thought-provoking. The film seamlessly brings together an immensely talented cast, featuring Robin Wright, James McAvoy, and Tom Wilkinson, among others.

The movie is set in the post-Civil War era, specifically the immediate aftermath of Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865. In this backdrop of anxiety, paranoia, and political agitation, the story is centered on the trial of the conspirators alleged to have been involved in the assassination plot. However, one figure amidst them all stands out - Mary Surratt, a middle-aged boarding house owner, played by Robin Wright, who is accused of harboring, abetting, and being an accomplice to the perpetrators of this grave act.

Robin Wright effectively brings to life the character of Mary Surratt, with a compelling and measured performance, evoking both sympathy and ambiguity through her portrayal. The core of the film is underlined by Wright's layered performance, as it remains unsettled whether Surratt is truly guilty, or just a scapegoat caught in the bitterness and horror following Lincoln's assassination.

Standing on the opposite end of the courtroom from Surratt is James McAvoy's character, Frederick Aiken. He is a fresh-faced war hero now working as an attorney who has been reluctantly tasked with defending Mary Surratt in the trial. A proud Unionist and initially loath to defend a potential conspirator, Aiken's journey of grappling with his preconceptions and his struggle with ensuring a fair trial for Surratt put into play. McAvoy beautifully articulates this internal struggle and the eventual transformation of Aiken, providing a counterpoint to the stoicism of Wright's Surratt.

Joining the ensemble of powerful performances is Tom Wilkinson as Reverdy Johnson, former U.S. Senator and Aiken's mentor. Wilkinson's character emerges as a beacon of reason, guiding Aiken through the muddled complexities. Furthermore, Kevin Kline shines as Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, whose determination to bring Lincoln's killers to justice often borderlines on an obsession, overshadowing the ideals of due process and fair trials.

Narratively, The Conspirator poses itself as a courtroom drama, with the intrigue of Lincoln's assassination playing out through testimonies, cross-examinations, and the swirling political atmosphere. Yet, behind the affairs of the courtroom, the film delves into the intricacies of human nature, the moral struggle for justice, and the potency of truth, providing a poignant commentary on the malleability of justice in times of national crisis.

Robert Redford beautifully crafts the period ambiance exuding tension, grief, and an intense yearning for justice. His direction embraces juxtaposition – individual versus society, truth against perception, and the fight of personal values against the tearing forces from a nation freshly coming out of a civil war.

Cinematically, the film is a visual delight, with the period recreated through meticulous art direction and costumes. The cinematography accentuates the shadow-laden, dimly lit political underbelly of the 19th-century capital city, in stark contrast to the courtroom's oppressive light, manifesting a metaphor for the film’s theme. Echoing the same, the haunting score builds onto the narrative, suffusing drama and suspense throughout.

Also worth noting is the cleverly written screenplay that refrains from taking a black-and-white stand, maintaining the protagonist's ambiguity. It challenges viewers to question their inherent beliefs about justice and truth, and in that challenge, it succeeds.

The Conspirator, at its heart, is a beautifully rendered piece that incites a dialogue about justice, the rule of law, and the strength of democracy that transcends its historical setting and resonates within the contemporary setting.

The Conspirator is a Crime, Drama, History movie released in 2010. It has a runtime of 122 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.9. It also holds a MetaScore of 55.

How to Watch The Conspirator

Where can I stream The Conspirator movie online? The Conspirator is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Amazon Prime, Tubi TV, Kanopy, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD, Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent The Conspirator for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

6.9/10
55/100
Director
Robert Redford
Stars
James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Kevin Kline, Jonathan Groff
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