The Conspirator (2010) by Robert Redford
It’s been a couple of weeks since I have seen this – busy weeks to be precise – but I still wanted to write something about it, ’cause it was actually really good.
It was a tough decision to go watch it. I had seen the trailor – as I have mentioned in my post about Robin Wright – and liked it. But when I sat at home that evening thinking about it again, I remembered it as belonging to a trope in which a woman is judged by a room full of men – and I do so get tired of movies like that.
Going to the movies seems to involve a lot of convincing on my part lately. But I am glad, I convinced myself to watch The Conspirator. For once, it is an interesting piece of history. Everybody knows the name of Lincoln’s assassin but the story that followed is not so very well known and it is rather a sad testament of law taken into the hands of vengeful men.
The acting is brilliant. Robin Wright and Evan Rachel Wood showed great performances of Southern women who – possibly – didn’t do anything wrong but are still blamed for the wrongdoings of the the men in their lives. James McAvoy shows another strong performance, and Kevin Kline – who is and always will be one of my favorite actors – is so brilliant that I only recognized him halfway through the movie. And playing an arrogant tyrant becomes him quite well.
The weak point of the film is probably that it is a story about a woman told through the story of a man. McAvoy’s character, Frederick Aiken, is also the main character. His fight for justice in the face of a paralyzing crime takes center stage, while the struggle of the woman he is fighting for, Mary Surratt, is pushed to the sidelines. And we are talking about the first woman who had been lawfully executed in the United States (and it is just possible that she was “innocent”) while Aiken quit practicing law after her trial. One wonders who the more heroic figure of the two was… (in case you are still wondering: it was her!).
The supporting cast was another strong point of the film (you really cannot complain about the casting). Beside Alexis Bledel, Justin Long, and Tom Wilkinson, Trekkers will rejoice in seeing Colm Meaney, while Gleeks will cheer for Jonathan Groff (who I don’t like any better now than when he first appeared on Glee).
If you got the time, give this film some attention. It deserves it, and it is certainly not just for people who study the subject – as I do.