It’s not every day we get a crack at historical drama around here, and so, I was definitely glad when Lions Gate sent out a copy of The Conspirator for me to review. After all, this was something we didn’t see every day, but how would it turn out?
The Conspirator takes us to the closing days of the American Civil War, with the Union winning and the Confederacy about to close up shop. And of course, it’s inevitable that John Wilkes Booth should stage his assassination of Abraham Lincoln. But that’s not who we’re dealing with here; no, we’re dealing with the lesser-known names, the names who went to trial as accessories, as conspirators, in the death of a president. The trial surrounding said conspirators was, if you believe The Conspirator, a deck so spectacularly stacked as to be mindboggling. But since history already shows what happened, the ultimate ending won’t be much of a surprise.
Admittedly, this is a little bit of a farce. Anyone with three minutes and Wikipedia handy will know exactly what happened to these people, and that wouldn’t take two hours to run through, as The Conspirator does. But the appeal of The Conspirator is not in its plot, but rather, in its execution. Accomplished actors (Kevin Kline, Colm Meaney, Stephen Root, and a host of others) backed up by a script that’s only slightly familiar.
It’s a little heavy-handed at times, so much so that it’s a wonder they didn’t have director Robert Redford walk in front of the camera at random intervals and scream “THIS TRIAL WAS AN UTTER TRAVESTY!” and then walk off. Frankly, they might as well have for all the subtlety they exhibited in this one. But still, for all the sheer and crashing lack of subtlety in The Conspirator, it’s still a well done, and well put together, piece of work that’s well worth watching for any history buff out there, or anyone who appreciates a good and extremely authentic period drama.
The Conspirator is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy this specific class of film, they will find a masterfully done piece of work, even if it’s decidedly lacking in subtlety.
The Screenhead Ten Scale gives The Conspirator an eight out of ten for doing a great job, if doing it a little too enthusiastically for its own good at times. It’s a good old fashioned piece of historical drama, and you should enjoy it.