Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Conspirator

The popularity of the 16th President of the United States of America in the 21st Century is only equaled to the 19th Century.  For anyone that enjoyed Steven Spielberg's epic "Lincoln" (2012) the events that took place afterward are told by Robert Redford in the film "The Conspirator" (2011). 

It is commonly known that John Wilkes Booth shot and killed the President, but what isn't widely known is the individuals that were charged with conspiring to kill the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary of State. The lone woman charged, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kobbell) and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks. Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is a Civil War veteran and a lawyer that is asked to defend Mary Surratt before a military tribunal.  As the trial unfolds, Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her own son. 

The story itself is intriguing, but the casting was even more impressive.  Kevin Kline is almost villainous as War Secretary Edwin Stanton that declares he doesn't care which is convicted (Mary Surratt or her son) as long as one of them pays the price.  Tom Wilkinson is Senator Reverdy Johnson who hand picks Frederick Aiken for the trial.  The innocence that comes so natural to Evan Rachel Wood is what shines as the daughter, Anna Surratt.  Another regular from "True Blood" is Chris Bauer who takes the witness stand along with Stephen Root and several others.  Danny Huston is the opposing lawyer while Colm Meaney leads the military tribunal. 

The biggest failure of the film is the personal life of Frederick Aiken as the performances from Alexis Bledel and Justin Long as his close friends.  The script from James Solomon works with his strengths of writing a legal drama.  While I understand that the inclusion of the secondary story was needed to help show the difficulties Frederick Aiken was emotionally dealing with; the acting from Alexis Bledel and Justin Long fell short resulting from a lack of chemistry.  Justin Long attempted to bring humor at times that wasn't necessary while Alexis Bledel in my opinion can't act. 

The ensemble casting of the film may be one of the best in years.  While the film is best categorized by the sum of its parts being better than the hole, it is never the less a film that is absolutely worth seeing as a 3 Quack film.

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