Plot: Union war-hero and lawyer, Frederick Aiken (McAvoy) has to defend Mary Surratt. Surratt, her son John and six others have been accused of conspiring to kill President Abraham Lincoln. Aiken has no doubt that Mary is guilty but as the case unfolds his feelings toward Surratt and the trial begins to change. With the entire Union and American public convinced of her guilt, Aiken has to prove Surratt’s innocence, no matter what the cost.
Director: Robert Redford
Cast: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline, Danny Huston, Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long
Genre: Historical Drama
Age Restriction: 13PGV
This period drama is the first film produced by The American Film Company-who seek to bring true-life, American stories from the past to life on the silver screen. The company goes straight for the jugular by telling this important American story. The trial of Surratt could be seen as a blight on American democratic and federal sensibilities at the time. A dark cloud hung over proceedings between Mary, John and the rest of the conspirators. Whatever was confessed by Surratt and her son was undermined by corrupt officials who conspired against her.
Redford touches on issues pertinent to post 9/11 America. He shows how history repeats itself and how easy it is for justice and democracy to become malleable, tenuous and wither when public fears and anxieties are stoked by war and other civilian threats. A marvellous ensemble cast lead by McAvoy give a sterling performance. Despite some over-dramatic music in a few scenes the film has few overt flaws. It is direct and tells the story as it is, without much flair or heavy tension-‘will he save her’ is not the object of the film but rather to show how important democracy and the rule of law is no matter what the circumstances.