Robert Redford’s latest film, "The Conspirator," explores a time in yankee history that almost all folks in all probability never knew concerning, or a minimum of forgot: the 1865 trial of Mary Surratt, a boarding house owner whose son was suspected of serving to John Wilkes Booth assassinate Abraham Lincoln.
It ought to be tense and thrilling, choked with made, powerful performances; instead, it will make you are feeling such as you ought to be taking notes in preparation for a high-school exam. And just like the last film Redford directed, the terrorism drama "Lions for Lambs," it’s painfully preachy and sanctimonious.
James McAvoy stars as Frederick Aiken, a 28-year-old Civil War hero for the Union who’s currently the lawyer assigned to defend Mary (Robin Wright), the lone lady charged within the case. Being young and idealistic – and functioning because the quite character Redford himself would have played decades ago – Aiken says he does not recognize whether or not Mary is guilty of conspiracy, however he feels she deserves a good trial.
The entire nation is against her – and against him, too, by association. however Kevin Kline, because the power-hungry Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, makes it clear that somebody should pay money for the president’s death. it’s going to similarly be Mary Surratt.
Redford’s film, based mostly on a script by James D. Solomon, is stately and respectable to a fault: It’s too safe. It feels the necessity to bang us over the top with how vital it’s. And Redford is attempting method too onerous to create these events from a century and a 0.5 ago look like a relevant metaphor for where we tend to are as a nation post-9/11.
Nobody ever evolves here; "The Conspirator" does not supply characters such a lot as human representations of principles. Aiken is usually determined and high-minded (and Alexis Bledel as his girlfriend is usually sweet and boring.) Mary remains the stoic martyr, proudly ready to try to to no matter she should to safeguard her son, till the terribly finish. Stanton is usually unscrupulously conniving and out for blood.
Even the film’s aesthetic motif is static and suffocating. Redford (with the assistance of cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel) shoots nearly all his interiors an equivalent way: dark rooms pierced with shafts of misty, unforgiving daylight. whether or not they are meant to produce enlightenment or forged blame, they feel repetitive.
Sure, "The Conspirator" has a superb, pedigreed supporting forged together with Tom Wilkinson, Colm Meaney, Danny Huston and Stephen Root in one nice scene. (Justin Long, meanwhile, shows up with the worst pretend facial hair known to mankind collectively of Aiken’s fellow troopers, and his presence feels awkward and method too modern.)
But then, Wilkinson, as Aiken’s superior, is saddled with clunky lines like: "It’s time to heal the state, not wage a lot of war." Even an actor of his versatility and stature cannot build that sound like something however what it is: a lecture.