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The Conspirators

Submitted by Commandrea on April 14, 2011 – 1:13 amNo Comment
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Robert Redford directs The Conspirators as if it were an important political allegory. So why does he have the temerity to pace the action at a glacial pace and reduce the action to melodramatic claptrap. During the execution sequence Redford cuts to slo-mo when the hangman’s noose tightens. I’ve seen more subtlety at monster car extravaganzas.

It’s pretty well known the participants in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln were tried and hung and that the conspirators included a woman.  The Conspirators fills in the back-story on this bit of American history with Mary Surratt played by Robin Wright. (There was also a 1944 film with the same title that starred Hedy Lamarr.) Much of The Conspirators revolves around the military trial of said conspirators.

One cannot deny the historical impact that occurs when the victors punish the defeated. In a sense this is what the Surratt trial was all about, and Redform plays with that conceit for all it’s worth. Spearheading the circus is an inflamed Secretary of War Stanton (Kevin Kline) who wants a quick speedy conviction. The trial, staged as a military tribunal could classify the film along with other military jurisprudence movies like The Caine Mutiny or A Few Good Men or Paths of Glory. The Conspirators never achieves the heaviosity of those films.

Surratt’s lawyer is effectively played by James McAvoy, himself a Yankee and Union war hero who takes on the case pro bono at the request of Washington D.C. insider Tom Wilkinson. So you have the lawyer who’s trying to fight for something in which he doesn’t believe and the costume drama (lots of diffusion) and the victim (Wright at least never lets her audience down) fighting an unwinnable battle. Whatever relevance Redford had as a director has evaporated. While The Conspirators will hopefully inspire people to learn more about events of the past the film itself is hopelessly constipated. Evan Rachel Wood, Alexis Bledel, Colm Meaney and Justin Long co-star.

- Michael Bergeron

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