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The Conspirator by Robert Redford: a Critical Review

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Film Analysis – The Conspirator

The film “The Conspirator” is about the assassination of President Lincoln and the trial of Mary Surratt which followed after. The film is a historical drama film which was directed by Robert Redford, and was based off of an original screenplay written by James D. Solomon. The film opens with the assassination of Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. The movie proceeds to the arrest and trial of Mary Surratt, as she was suspected to have helped with the assassination of Lincoln as her son was one of the main offenders in the act. This lasts for a few days and remains the plot for the remainder of the movie. Mary Surratt’s appointed lawyer, Frederick Aiken defends her to the best of his ability, and manages to eventually get her a lifetime in jail sentence, where she originally was to be hung due to Aiken’s writ of habeas corpus. However, President Johnson suspends his writ, which results in Mary ultimately being hung. The movie ends with Mary’s son returning and being set free, even though his mother was hung without evidence, and he was one of the main three offenders.

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The Conspirator has a plethora of accuracies and inaccuracies, both which vary in importance in the plot. Some important accuracies which the movie nailed was the result of Mary Surratt’s trial, the fact that Lincoln was originally planned to be kidnapped instead of killed, and the fact that Mary’s boarding house was used to hold the secret meetings for planning the crimes. Some inaccuracies which the movie got wrong was that John Surratt wasn’t simply “found innocent”, but the statute of limitations on almost all of his charges had run out. Another inaccuracy is that a brick was never actually thrown through the boarding house window, as Anna Surratt never actually returned to it in reality. Finally, an inaccuracy the movie contained was that Anna Surratt was not allowed to see her mother, when she actually visited her in prison often during the entire duration of the trial.

Personally, I enjoyed the film quite a bit, though in comparison to the previous movie, The Crucible, I did not enjoy it as much. If I were to rate The Conspirator, I would give it a 6.5/10, as it was good but I was left a bit bored at points. Personally, I think Mary Surratt was treated unfairly. I believe that she should not have gotten a civilian trial as she did indeed have links to the assassination. I personally believe she did know about the planned assassination due to her having removed or not logged Booth on the ledger, which seems like a strange thing to do unless one was trying to hide the fact he was there. I disagree with the fact she was hung, as the trail was rather unfair and the death penalty was an unfair punishment for what crime she did possibly commit. The film itself has historical value due to it staying very close to the real events which occurred, only straying slightly.

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