If your immediate thought is "Gee, this looks boring," I urge you to think again. The Conspirator delivers a profoundly compelling, and yet entirely true, retelling of the events that transpired after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
I first heard about this film through my habit of *stalking* actor James McAvoy's imdb.com profile. From its pre-production days, it was hard to judge if this was going to be worth seeing, but I was very happy I did.
The first 20 minutes surround the assassination itself. If you know anything about it from studying U.S. History, you know it occurred in a theater in Washington, D.C. and John Wilkes Booth was the assassin responsible for firing the fatal bullet to back of the President's head. However, this murder was only one of three planned -- the two other targets were Secretary of State and Vice President at the time -- a detail never learned or forgotten brought to the forefront. This entire scene is re-imagined well on the screen.
Lincoln's death prompts the swift response of Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline), Lincoln's Secretary of War, to locate and prosecute the conspirators. During this pursuit, Wilkes (Toby Kebbell) is gunned down, John Surratt (Johnny Simmons) cannot be found, and seven accused men and one woman, Mary Surratt, (Robin Wright) are taken into custody. A military tribunal is then set to occur instead of a civil court with a jury of their peers as the Constitution dictates.
Enter Friedrick Aiken (James McAvoy), a young Civil War hero made to defend Mary Surratt. As evident through early correspondence with his client, Aiken is hesitant to accept her story and even more hesitant to stand by it in a courtroom.
From here on out the movie is much like any other courtroom drama. Lawyers cross examine their witnesses, Aiken conducts counsel with Surratt herself and Surratt's daughter, Anna (Evan Rachel Wood) and gathers more evidence that he comes to believe supports her innocence.
The viewer, however, is ultimately left with the choice. Was she innocent or guilty?
Overall, this movie contains an excellent main and supporting cast (okay, except for Justin Long who added little sans minimal comic relief) authentic set designs, gorgeous period costumes, and a riveting lesson about the justice system. What's not to like?