|Directed by:||Robert Redford|
|Written by:||James D. Solomon|
|Cast:||James McAvoy, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Evan Rachel Wood, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Jonathan Groff, Norman Reedus, Toby Kebbell, Tom Wilkinson|
[Story & Direction : 65% ]
I confess to being quite a fan of historical dramas, especially those that deal with lesser known events or people, such as films like VALKYRIE and AMAZING GRACE. Having never heard of Mary Surratt before, I found the premise of THE CONSPIRATOR interesting. There have been criticisms about the lack of urgency in the pacing and I do agree, to a certain extent. Although it's not really a problem for me, the film in general feels more documental than cinematic, especially with the effect of the hand-held camera.
Some of the ideas and conflicts brought up in THE CONSPIRATOR do resonate with present issues but I don't think Robert Redford or James D. Solomon is deliberately forcing any particular message on the audience any more than attempting to shed some light on the trial of Mary Surratt. The story is very dialogue-driven with multiple courtroom scenes which isn't entirely cohesive hence disrupting the pace of the film at times. The script also seems a bit simplistic, probably because it's impossible to cover everything extensively within the two-hour running time, and as such I feel like we're just being spoon-fed the facts and arguments of the case without much exposition.
[Acting : 85% ]
Robin Wright is really remarkable here. Despite playing a stoic character, she imbues Mary Surratt with quiet strength that makes her somewhat enigmatic, in a good way. I like that Mary Surratt wasn't portrayed as a glorified martyr or playing to our sympathies, rather, her understated resolve makes it easier, for me at least, to empathize with her character. And then there is James McAvoy. With X MEN: FIRST CLASS and THE CONSPIRATOR, there can be no doubt of the spectacular range of this actor. McAvoy's Frederick Aiken has the perfect amount of passion that drives the film forward. His performance also gives the film its moral and emotional conscience.
The rest of the supporting characters are mostly played well by capable actors like Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood and Kevin Kline. That said, Alexis Bledel and Justin Long are severely miscast. Bledel is rather wooden in her role and Long looks out of place in a period piece with his modern behavior patterns.
[Production Value : 75% ]
I'm no historian but I think the film very successfully recreates the atmosphere of the 1860s. The buildings and streets as well as the interior sets look truly authentic. The music in the film, though not particularly outstanding in comparison to other scores, adequately supports some of the more emotional scenes.
[Overall Rating : 75% ]
I personally enjoyed this film and would recommend it to viewers interested in a more informational look at a small part of American history.