Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Conspirator (Rhoades)

“The Conspirator”
Makes Her Case
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
 Here in Key West we have a greater connection to the 146th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that most people realize. Several of the convicted conspirators – including Dr. Samuel Mudd – were incarcerated at Ft. Jefferson 70 miles off our shores.
Amazingly, the surviving conspirators were pardoned three years later by Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson. That would be like Lynden Johnson pardoning Lee Harvey Oswald after a couple of years (if he’d survived) for the assassination of JFK.
There are those who argue about Dr. Mudd’s guilt – or lack there of. Some have the same misgivings over the conviction of Mary Surratt, the only female co-conspirator charged in the Lincoln assassination and the first woman ever executed by the United States government.
In keeping with this dreadful anniversary there’s a new film out called “The Conspirator.” Directed by Robert Redford, it tells the story of Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt.
Robin Wright stars as Surratt. James McAvoy co-stars as her lawyer. Also we have Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Biedel, and Kevin Kline rounding out the cast.
As you may recall, seven men and one woman were charged with conspiring to kill the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. Mary Surratt owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met to plan the attacks. Her son was one of those involved. She loved her son.
“The Conspirator” is holding court this week at the Tropic Cinema. You don’t have to be a history buff (or even a conspiracy theorist) to find it a riveting drama.
The film focuses on a fresh-faced young lawyer named Frederick Aiken (McAvoy) who reluctantly agrees to defend Mary Surratt (Wright) before the military tribunal. He comes to believe that his client may be innocent, her arrest merely a gambit to ensnare her son who eluded capture. But as public sentiment turns against her, is it too late to undo these spurious charges?
If you’ve ever read a history book you’ll know the answer. The film follows its require course. Her son John H. Surratt Jr. was later tried but not convicted.
Robin Wright (the ex-Mrs. Sean Penn) will be forever remembered as “The Princess Bride.” And you will be seeing her in the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
James McAvoy is familiar as the romantic soldier in “Atonement.” You’ve also seen him as the nerdy hero in “Wanted.” And he plays a young Professor X in Marvel’s upcoming “X-Men: First Class.”
Redford’s directorial hand is strong, offering a “deliberate, stagebound approach.” The drama itself is mesmerizing – despite the known outcome.
Makes me want to take a boat over to Ft. Jefferson and touch one of the 16 million bricks that mark the remote outpost where four of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination were imprisoned for that short time.
[from Solares Hill]

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