Robert Redford’s new film, “The Conspirator,” is based on the occurrences that followed the assassination of President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. It mainly covers the trial of Mary Surratt.
Mary is accused of harboring John Wilkes Booth and company at her boardinghouse while planning plots against President Lincoln and other members of the government. Given a defense attorney from the North, I wondered, could his heart be totally in it to gain her freedom?
You see the struggles of a crime and the attempt to stay within the lines of the law in a time of a nation still fresh with battle scars and ill feelings towards each side.
In the first clip, Frederick (James McAvoy) tries to gain points for his client, Mary (Robin Wright Penn), by trying to get her to give her son up. Mary tries to get a feel for what side he is on, since she is a southern mother and he is a Yankee.
In the second clip, Mary Surrat (Robin Wright Penn) tells Frederick (McAvoy) there is a letter explaining her sons whereabouts, that he was in Montreal, but the letter is gone. He seems to be more put out that the letter is missing than does the client who the letter would help.
In the third clip, Anna (Evan Rachel Wood) tries to understand what Frederick’s (McAvoy) motives are for taking the case. I can understand the daughter’s reluctance to show the lawyer, even her mother’s lawyer, as she wonders how a man who could kill Southerners could now defend one.
In clip four, frustrated Frederick (McAvoy) confronts prosecution (Danny Huston) about the way he keeps managing to disinter his witnesses. In open court, he defies the prosecution’s tactics as they, one by one, manage to effect his witness list.
In clip five, Sarah (Alexis Bledel) confronts Frederick (McAvoy) about his devotion to her or more to the case. She is his wife and has been waiting for him to come home from the war and now that war is over she is still waiting for him to be there for her. His wife is telling him that she has had enough and can’t do this anymore and yet he is only half paying attention.
Clip six shows Edwin (Kevin Kline) speaking to Frederick (McAvoy) about his hopes of a sentence for Mary. He sees that what this woman as done as an incredible injustice and that she needs to be punished swiftly and harshly for her grievous crime if the nation to continue to exist.
And in the final clip, Edwin (Kline) is speaking to Reverdy (Tom Wilkinson) about the changing world and the frightened country. He feels that a resolution must be swift and harsh for the benefit of the country. Reverdy does not feel that Edwin must try to frighten the country even more. As I watch this, I start to wonder to what extremes did they go to, to put the correct people up on charges for this crime.
“The Conspirator” opens in theatres April 15.
. . .
Follow Lynn Tackitt on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pvtgiggles.