In late 2009, Robert Redford and James McAvoy began filming on the streets of downtown Savannah. Their picture is called “The Conspirator,” and it’s available on DVD.
On the evening of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth. There was a larger conspiracy at work that day, which involved plans to take out the vice president and secretary of state simultaneously. Though Booth was shot and killed, eight other conspirators were arrested and put on trial. Among those was one woman — our title conspirator, Mary Surratt.
The question is: Was she guilty of any wrongdoing, or was the government using her as a pawn to get to her son?
Surratt is acted by Robin Wright. McAvoy is the young war hero/lawyer who reluctantly defends her, while Redford directs.
Wright is an effortless actor at the top of her game. You can expect perfection from her, and you almost always get it.
Evan Rachel Wood portrays Suratt’s daughter and also was equal to the task.
Unfortunately, for me, other aspects of the film did not quite measure up. There is a suspenseful sequence that re-creates the circumstances of the assassination, which should have been totally riveting. Instead, it assumed the audience knew all the details of that night. I had trouble following who was who and what they were doing.
There also are some awkward casting decisions here. Alexis Bledel did not fit in with the actors around her. Justin Long did deliver some comic relief, but he also stuck out.
Tom Wilkinson did a good job, and so did Kevin Kline, but as the villain, some dimension was missing from his role. The fault there was in the script, not in his performance.
In the end, I’m not a fan!