When he is not being politically silly, Robert Redford does direct good movies, most notable **The Horse Whisperer** and **Ordinary People.** After being involved with poorly performing box office duds recently, Redford directs his first historical motion picture abort the assassination of American's first Republican president. **The Conspirator** opens with the murder of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Boothe. After a national manhunt, Boothe was shot in a burning barn and five associates were arrested and put to trial in a military tribunal. This portion of the film is the most exciting and energetic portion of the movie.
When court is in session, the pace of **The Conspirator** slows down and becomes a courtroom drama. Union Civil War Veteran Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) becomes the public defender of Mary Suratt (Robin Wright), the proprietor of the bed & breakfast where the assassination was planned. Surratt invokes her right of the 5th amendment and does not speak to defend herself. While her actions is seen as presumption of guilt, her motives are maternal; Surratt wants to protect her daughter Anna (Evan Rachel Wood) and son, John (Johnny Simmons), a young man implicated because he was friends with John Wilkes Booth.
**The Conspirator** is the debut film from the The American Film Company, whose mission is to create films that are historically accurate. One is reminded of a world without electricity, for the trial is illuminated by open windows and candlelight. A toilet is heard flushing in the background, only a progressive city like Washington D.C. would afford such a scientific contraption.
As Mary Surratt, Robin Wright will be considered for an Oscar. Her stoic actions are only betrayed by the windows of the soul, her eyes. With his work in **Atonement** and the new **X-Men** movie being released this summer James McAvoy will become a household name in the movies. As Aiken, McAvoy is the film's narrator and he masters a transitional performance. Enjoying the wigs, beards and 19th Century clothing, veteran actors Kevin Kline (as Edwin Staton) and Tom Wilkinson ( as Reverdy Johnson), sink their teeth in character roles. The new generation of ensemble players, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexis Bledel and Justin Long acquit themselves in this fine, but dark, drama.
"The Conspirator" opens on income tax day.