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Film / The Conspirator

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The Conspirator is a 2010 film directed by Robert Redford about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the trial of the conspirators. Robin Wright stars as Mary Surratt, whose degree of culpability has remained controversial ever since 1865. James McAvoy portrays Frederick Aiken, the lawyer assigned to defend her.

This film contains examples of

  • Author Tract: Robert Redford's view of the War on Terror and such practices as indefinite detention and military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay is very, very apparent.
  • Based on a True Story: Very accurate in its depiction of events. The primary departure is in the character of Aiken. The real Aiken was a Democratic Party activist that had strong Southern sympathies. He also had a co-counsel named John W. Clampitt who helped him at the trial after Johnson stepped aside. Additionally, there is little evidence that Stanton strong-armed the commission into returning a death sentence against Surratt.
  • Downer Ending: Mary is hanged.
  • Frameup/Framing the Guilty Party: Aiken believes that witnesses are fabricating their testimony and the government is coercing people into testifying against Surratt, but the film doesn't really take a position on whether or not Surratt actually knew of the murder plot on April 14.
  • Gaussian Girl/Holy Backlight: All over the place, especially in the courtroom scenes. If someone's wearing a white shirt, they're so glowy that it's kind of distracting.
  • Hanging Judge: Hanging Secretary of War, actually, in Edwin Stanton, who controlled the trial.
  • Shown Their Work: Many things are amazingly accurate. If you look closely, you'll notice that Mary Suratt's noose had fewer knots in it than the other conspirators. This was, in real-life, because the man tying the nooses expected her sentence to be commuted to life in prison at the last minute, and didn't want to waste his time making a proper noose that would never be used.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Sen. Johnson is seen working on a chess problem at his desk.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: The real one, with the pictures of the actors substituted.