When it's over, this film had wonderful talent, but lacked emotional value. Actors James McAvoy and Robin Wright lead a cast of familiar faces portraying Frederick Aiken and Mary Suratt, the lawyer from the north and the accused from the south. Set against the back drop of post Civil War Washington, the film chronicles the trial of Suratt as the only woman to be accused as a co-conspirator to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Director Robert Redford keeps the story true to historical events, while suggesting the possibility that Surratt may have been innocent and wrongly executed. Because the film is based on historical events, I can understand the challenge the film faced to "fill in the blanks" without compromising the facts, but facts alone wasn't enough to elevate the emotional struggles of the people and of a nation. When I watched this film, I saw it as a docu-drama, but I also saw hints of Redford trying to get into the personal lives of it's main characters, especially Aiken, who goes from unbelieving to believing in his client's innocence and the social, emotional, and professional price tag that went along with his convictions to uphold the US Constitution's Fifth Amendment. I think Redford should have pushed harder in this direction, because it would have made Aiken's character more dynamic, more complex as a man who was struggling through right and wrong, which I have no doubt, McAvoy would have been able to deliver had the script or director called for it. If a film has no emotional value, it makes no connection with the viewer, and with The Conspirator, focusing on the thoughts and the hearts of the characters would have been just as important, if not more crucial, than the physical action of those characters.
My rating: 3 out of 5
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