Friday, April 22, 2011

Movie Review: "The Conspirator"

I would like, if I may, to stray a bit from my blog's theme to another of my pet projects. I have been interested in Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the United States Government for her alleged role in the Lincoln assassination, since high school. Since then, I have written a good-sized paper and done much research on her (unfortunately, the digital copy of that paper was lost when my college laptop died; still have a hard copy, though). So as you can imagine, I was geeking out with anticipation for the release of "The Conspirator." I was unhappy that it was not playing in my hometown, but when I visited one of my college friends in Erie last weekend, she and I saw it together. It met my expectations, and then some. If you haven't done so, I highly recommend it. This film is possibly the most historically accurate one I have ever seen.

Robin Wright portrays Mary Surratt ably, as a Maryland widow who moves to Washington to support herself and her children by taking in boarders (as was common at the time) and gets swept up in the doings of John Wilkes Booth through her son John, a Confederate courier. James McAvoy portrays one of her appointed attourneys - and a Union veteran - Frederick Aiken (another of her lawyers, John Clampitt, is not included in the movie, probably to keep from bogging down the plot in too much detail). Aiken is initially reluctant to defend her, but he comes to believe in his client's innocence. Initially, Booth, John Surratt, and other conspirators seek to kidnap and ransom Lincoln. But when Lincoln proposed giving some freedmen the right to vote, Booth's plan changed to murder. How much Mary knew of either plot, and whether or not she was much involved, is still debated today. The movie is largely sympathetic to her, but it still allows the audience to judge for themselves her guilt or innocence. To experts on the subject, there are some glaring inconsistencies with the original events: the omission of Mary Surratt's other priest, the appearance of the Old Penitentiary Building (it didnt have a moat), and the appearance of some of the key players themselves.

"The Conspirator" draws some contemporary parallels about how people in power can use fear after cataclysmic events (in this case, the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination) to justify drastic measures against civilians, whether or not they be guilty.

You can watch the trailer for "The Conspirator" here:
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

No comments:

Post a Comment