THE CONSPIRATOR—–“Have you ever believed in something far greater than yourself?” Robert Redford’s 8th turn as director is his best since his 4th (and finest) for Quiz Show. Like that true-life drama of the 1950s, this is a fact-based historical period piece: the 1865 trial of the handful of people (so far as is known) involved in the murder of Abraham Lincoln, in particular Mary Surratt, sharply essayed by Robin Wright.
Analogies to the impassioned judgement rush of post 9-11 America and the slippery slope of military trials for civilians add political and civics resonance to the detail-rich, carefully paced 123 minutes, with a well-chosen cast giving vibrance to musty figures of the past. It’s not great, but it’s laudable, and deserved a better response than it received from many critics (lukewarm) and a sorry box-office take of $15,479,000 which sank against a budget of $25,000,000.
Take “Killing Lincoln”, that insipid junk from Bill O’Reilly, use it for mulch and instead watch Spielberg’s Lincoln with this honest and thoughtful piece as a chaser. Able work from James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Huston, Tom Burlinson, Justin Long, Norman Reedus, Colm Meany, Toby Kebbell (as John Wilkes Booth) and a great nugget from Stephen Root that’s choice enough in its brief flash to vouchsafe the movie on its own.