Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Movie Review: The Conspirator

In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I had particular motivation to see Robert Redford's new movie about the trial of Mary Surratt. She is my Great Aunt to the 5th power. As a kid my mother told us stories of the Jenkins family and our ties to Surratt. She reinforced in us the idea that Mary was railroaded by a government desperate to heal the wounds of the Civil War and as such she became a kind of martyr to our Nation when she was hung.

So, sufficed to say, I went into the movie with one side of the story well covered. I was happy to find that sides weren't really played out in the film, as it were. With out a doubt the film shows how Mary was denied due process owed to any citizen accused of a crime by their government. I'd also go so far as to say that the way the story unfolds would tend to point a person who came in without an opinion on Mary's guilt or innocence purely toward the innocent side of the ledger. But, it wasn't in anyway heavy handed in its portrayal.

The movie is visually stunning and superbly acted by just about everyone who appeared in it. And there were so many recognizable faces in this movie from Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Kevin Kline and Tom Wilkinson on the very well known side to Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood and Alexis Bledel on the up and coming front. Plus, there were a host of 'hey, it's that guy' actors in the movie like Colm Meaney (Miles O'Brien from Star Trek), Danny Huston (Sam Adams in the HBO mini John Adams) and my favorite Jim True-Frost (Pryzbylewski from the Wire).

The movie tells a story that is complex and fraught with ethical and patriotic questions that were everywhere during Reconstruction. It serves as a wonderful piece of art in that it casts a light on a historical event without being heavy handed. It also provokes thought about the very nature of our society and how strongly we believe the things we say we believe.

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