Friday, February 11, 2011

The Conspirator

Last night I saw a screening of Robert Redford's new movie, "The Conspirator." It's the true story of Mary Surratt, who ran a boarding house in Washington, DC. Her son John Surratt was friends with John Wilkes Booth, who killed Abraham Lincoln. She was arrested and tried for her role in the conspiracy that led to his assassination.

The movie was packed with big names. Robin Wright, formerly married to Sean Penn, played Mary Surratt. She was amazing. And unrecognizable. She sure doesn't look like Buttercup from "The Princess Bride." James McAvoy plays her attorney, who was a captain in the Union army. He starts out not wanting to defend her, but as a lawyer, believing in the rule of law and the US Constitution even in the time of war, really works to make sure the trial is fair and legal.

Since it's a true story, not gonna feel like I'm spoiling anything to say that it does not end well for many characters.

The screening was held as part of the American Bar Association conference. I went with a friend who is attending the conf. So the audience was largely lawyers. Talk about a sympathetic audience.

As I was watching, I wondered if it was filmed in Savannah. The houses where the main floor was on the second, not the easily flooded first floor, seemed familiar. And the fort made me think of Ft. Pulaski. After some internet searching, it turns out that it was filmed in Savannah.

Other big names: Kevin Kline, Alexis Bledel (Rory!), Colm Meaney (O'Brien!), Justin Long (can't stop thinking of him as the Mac guy), Tom Wilkinson. Other actors whose faces I recognized but couldn't place until the credits were Jonathon Groff (Jesse from Glee -- does good smarm), and James Badge Dale from Rubicon. I recognized Norman Reedus right away, who played Darryl in the Walking Dead.

The message was pretty clear that even in the time of war, the rule of law and habeas corpus, etc must be upheld, that everyone deserves a fair trial, and no one should be railroaded into a conviction to satisfy national blood lust. The ghost of Guantanamo Bay and the war of terror was pretty clear. Not a whole lot of subtlety in the movie. The Conspiracy could refer to those who plotted to kill Lincoln and to the Secy of War and the military tribunal that was determined to punish someone.

All in all, it was a good movie. I'd definitely recommend it when it comes out. If nothing else, for Robin Wright's performance.

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