Mixed results from Robert Redford courtroom drama on shooting of Abraham Lincoln
Have you ever wondered about the true story of Mary Surratt, the woman charged alongside John Wilkes Booth – the man who shot Abraham Lincoln – and his co-conspirators in 1865? Robert Redford’s courtroom drama supposes that you have and that you are more than aware of this sorry tale’s modern analogies.
The Conspirator is based on historical events, but is clearly just as inspired by recent politics; in the aftermath of Lincoln’s death, Redford implies that there was a rush to judgment that provides obvious parallels with post-Guantanamo Bay America. James McAvoy plays idealistic young lawyer Frederick Aiken, who takes responsibility for defending Mary Suratt (Robin Wright), whose boardinghouse was used by Lincoln’s assassins.
Surrat is deliberately presented as an anxious but elusive figure, but the military tribunal setting allows for plenty of strong supporting roles, especially a stern Kevin Kline as Draconian war secretary Edwin Stanton. As with Redford’s Lions For Lambs, the results are intermittently preachy and starchy, better suited to stirring a classroom debate than a cinema audience.
General release from Fri 1 Jul.