Family-Faith Film Review: The Conspirator
By Catholic Office of Film and Broadcasting
The Conspirator: Engrossing historical drama, set in the final days of the Civil War, in which a Union Army officer-turned-lawyer (James McAvoy) is called upon to defend Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the pro-Confederate widow in whose Washington boardinghouse John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators — including her own son John (Johnny Simmons) — plotted to kill Abraham Lincoln. Initially convinced of his client’s guilt, the attorney’s views shift as he witnesses the ruthless maneuvering of the prosecution team (led by Danny Huston) at her military tribunal. His new outlook leads to friendship with Mary’s daughter Anna (Evan Rachel Wood) but alienates the powerful secretary of war (Kevin Kline) as well as the young barrister’s socialite fiancee (Alexis Bledel). In recounting an episode with obvious implications for contemporary debates about the proper treatment of accused terrorists, director Robert Redford avoids heavy-handed politicking. Instead, his portrait of a protagonist admirably committed to the rule of law is made all the more effective by the fair assessment of those with other legitimate priorities. A similarly balanced approach characterizes the portrayal of Surratt’s devout Catholic faith. Possibly acceptable for older teens. Some wartime gore, a realistic hanging, a couple of crude and crass terms. A-III — adults. (PG-13) 2011
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