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“Conspirator” Good; Story Still Infuriating

Director Robert Redford‘s “The Conspirator” is a riveting narrative about the trial of boardinghouse operator Mary Surratt who was tried and convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln because the real murderers had conspired under her roof. Talk about the ultimate guilt by association.

The film’s main player is attorney Frederick Aiken, played by James McAvoy, who was assigned the unenviable task of Mrs. Surratt’s defense. He didn’t want to do it, but grew to like the woman and eventually came to see that perhaps the trial was just a formality. Robin Wright–the ex-Mrs. Sean Penn–is terrific as Mary Surratt as is McAvoy. A familiar supporting cast compliments the leads admirably. This is a fine film, but I can’t get over how this all played out. I’ve been familiar with the Mary Surratt story since I was a teen. I couldn’t wrap my brain around her fate then, and I can’t now. It’s to Robert Redford’s credit that he’s made such a compelling movie despite the fact that the outcome is a matter of record. “The Conspirator” is playing at the Malco Cinema 16.

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