“The Conspirator”directed by Robert Redford is a new historical drama.The basic ethical and political problems are the murder of the president and the simultaneous coordinated attempts on the lives of Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward which throw Washington into panic. After John Wilkes Booth is killed in a shootout with soldiers, his fellow plotters are arrested and tried, not by a jury of their peers but by a committee of officers.
Among those on trial is Mary Surratt, a widow whose boarding house was a meeting place for the conspirators and whose son John appears to have been one of the conspirators.On trial for her life, Mary is defended by Frederick Aiken, a decommissioned captain in the Union Army.
Aiken is initially reluctant to be the advocate of a suspected traitor, but he is deceived into taking the assignment by Reverdy Johnson , a powerful Democratic senator from Maryland. And as he becomes inform with Mary and her daughter Anna, Aiken becomes passionately dedicated to proving Mary’s innocence, or at least saving her life.He finds, though, that the deck is accumulated, and the audience may feel the same way, in purpose of the movie’s show of fidelity to the historical record.
The chief prosecutor, Joseph Holt, is played by Danny Huston, whose silken baritone and crooked smile are so immediately indicative of duplicity that the filmmakers might as well have cast a talking snake. Colm