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Cinema Saturday this week brings you a review of a film that was released in the USA earlier in the year and has been out here in the UK for around a month, The Conspirator.

I’m going through something of a small James McAvoy phase at the moment and am starting to like him more as an actor and he is choosing some good roles. His portrayal of Professor Charles Xavier in the latest X Men movie was excellent and his role of Frederick Aiken in this movie is a very mature choice for him.

The Conspirator opens with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. I initially thought from the trailer that this was what the movie was about, but its not. The story centres around the trial of on Mary Surratt, played here by Robin Wright, who ran a boarding house in which the conspiracy involving Booth and his friends to kidnap the President, but ultimately ended in killing him instead. In the short time after Lincoln’s death, there was much need for a swift conviction of all those involved in the plot. Times were delicate just after the end of the Civil War and much of the pressure put on the court to convict was political in nature.

James McAvoy plays lawyer Frederick Aiken, the man assigned by the Attorney General to represent Surratt in court, a case which he initially tries to walk away from, but finds it increasingly difficult to do so as he learns more about the woman and events that took place (or didn’t take place) at certain points in time leading up to the actual assassination.

Directed by acting legend Robert Redford, The Conspirator is essentially a courtroom drama like something from a John Grisham novel, but the setting is an unusual one, but entertaining nonetheless. What I will say is that its not an action flick, so don’t expect a lot of scenes with muskets blazing between Union and Confederate armies. It runs along for its 2 hours at a steady pace with an interesting and engaging storyline acted by some very good Hollywood types, which in addition to McAvoy and Wright, include Kevin Kline as Edwin Stanton, Tom Wilkinson as Reverdy Johnson and Colm Meaney as David Hunter.

On the whole, I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to those into a good drama. I give it a solid 6.5/10. Its entertaining, but not in the league of A Few Good Men as courtroom dramas go. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

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