Despite my long aversion to films “based on true events,” I so wanted “The Conspirator,” Robert Redford’s latest direction job, to be a great and powerful one.
On the surface, the story — the trial of Mary Surratt, one of the people tried and hanged for plotting to kill Abraham Lincoln and his top Cabinet members — appealed to my fondness for American history. And the marketing was clever enough, too: opening the film on the anniversary of Lincoln’s death (April 15), and just past the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War (April 12).
So I plunked down my 10-and-a-quarter at Sierra Vista in Clovis and waited for the greatness.
I’m still waiting. Not that anyone would expect a thriller, but I walked away underwhelmed, at times supremely bored and feeling that this member of the choir had been beaten over the head for two hours. It’s a relentlessly bleak film, and besides, you know the end result going in. Sure, it’s essentially a film about a trial (albeit a milestone one; a law was passed banning civilians being tried by military tribunals after this). But what happens between points A and B doesn’t have to drag on and on. Perhaps this film, despite its striking big-screen visuals, would play much better on a small screen.