Robert Redford directed and produced this historical drama that follows the efforts of a young lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), who was a northern civil war hero, as he defends Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), a confederated sympathizer accused of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.
Realizing that Surratt may in fact be innocent, Aiken defies public opinion and risks everything to get her acquitted.
Such a poignant and incredibly dramatic film. The makers of this movie claim to have gone to great lengths to make this film as historically accurate as possible down to the smallest details. I believe it. I felt like I was in the middle of it. I could understand the pain of a nation losing a truly good man in the President of the United States, and the need of some to obtain retribution at the risk of slaying justice. The politics of the situation are swirling around you in every aspect, the traditions of the day where Mary Surratt was not allowed to testify in her own defense, to the effects on the career of this young attorney. It was political suicide to defend her. Aiken not only risked his career but he risked the love of his girlfriend.
Mary Surratt owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth stayed and where he and other men planned three attacks in concert. Aiken is reluctant to defend the only women accused at first until he realizes that she is a pawn, bait to draw out her son, who is the only accused to escape capture. She refuses to betray her son although he does not do as much for her.
The tension and feelings of a post-civil war portrayed here reminded me a lot of the type of fervor experienced after 9/11. It is only natural to seek for justice and retribution. It is easy to see how those desires for justice can quickly turn into a witch hunt. It is a good reminder for us to take a step back before we make justice the next casualty of offense.
I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.