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Sunday, July 3, 2011

281. The Conspirator


    So, if you look hard enough you will find a decent movie during the summer blockbuster season.
    Despite an hugely impressive cast and an A-list director in Robert Redford, The Conspirator has hit the screens with little ra-ra-ra.
    Perhaps it's also because the Americans don't to take too kindly to films which question the forces of justice and democracy in their country - even historical ones.
    Redford's film surrounds the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the consequent pursuit of those responsible.
    The man who pulled the trigger, John Wilkes Booth, was shot to death in a barn but it was the conviction of the Government, particularly Secretary of War, Edward Stanton, that it was a conspiracy.
    Boarding house keeper Mary Surratt was one of the alleged conspirators - and it is her 'trial' which is the focus of the movie.
    Surratt was charged because it was considered inconceivable that she was not party to discussions involving Booth which happened at the boarding house.
    James McEvoy is The Conspirator's star turn, looking much more at home in a period drama than he did playing Charles Xavier the recent X-Men movie.
    He plays a former civil war Yankee captain who is told by his law firm boss (Tom Wilkinson) to defend Surratt.
    It is a no-win situation because if she escapes the noose, he will face the wrath of his friends and if she loses, his reputation will be tarnished.
    McEvoy is super in this role, bursting with indignation at his perceived injustice over the state's position.
    Another key player is Danny Huston as the chief prosecutor.
    Huston, in my opinion is one of America's top actors. Whether he is a crazed vampire leader or a 17th century lawyer he is consummate. Here, is the master of the courtroom.
    Wilkinson, who seems to have become and honourary American is good, as always, Kevin Kline is super as Stanton and there are decent supporting performances from Evan Rachel Wood and Justin Long.
    However, Robin Wright is the one who nearly steals the show from McEvoy. As Surratt she is steely, indignant but also vulnerable.
    Her real-life glamour has been ditched and it seems like she really has become the dowdy widow of the civil war. It is a powerful piece of work.
    I didn't know the story of Mary Surratt and, therefore, I enjoyed the twists of history. I suspect US audiences will know the whole saga and there may be pitfalls in Redford's presentation.
    However, I found it very pleasing on the eye and splendidly acted.
    Thus, The Conspirator gets 8.5/10 from me.

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281. The Conspirator


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