The Conspirator is about the trial of the small group of people that helped John Wilkes Booth plan his assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It aims to explore a mostly forgotten corner of American history, but it raises more questions than it answers. Since I want the answers to those questions, and since there would be a certain irony in cross examining a legal thriller, I would like to put this film on trial today.
The first thing I need to do is to introduce the above photo into the evidence. That still leads directly into my first question: why is film so overlit? This movie takes place in the Civil War. That screen shot is supposed to take place at night during at a time when there were no electric lights and it’s so bright that you can barely see the hero’s legs underneath all the reflection. It’s not just that scene, either; there’s several scenes in what should be a dank dungeon-y jail that have shafts of light coming through the window with such power that they wouldn’t be out of place in a Madonna and child painting. Whose fault is that? They deserve to go to cinematography jail.
My next line of inquiry: are we supposed to just accept without questioning the implied equivocation between the way that civil rights were attacked during the civil war and the way that they were attacked under the war on terror? Because I’m not sure that they really are the same fight, given the different levels of technology, the different terrain of the fights, the different types of combatants, etc. And if they are the same, shouldn’t this movie be more cynical? Because if the problem is persistent over hundreds of years despite the best efforts of idealistic men then there's no reason to want to be one of those idealistic men. This movie's tone isn't dark enough to encourage the cynical belief that history is doomed to repeat itself, but it also is telling a story of recurrent futility, so what is it really trying to do? This movie needs to go to script jail for being heavy handed and not completely thought through.
I'll try to enter this line of questioning into the record even though I suspect that the defense will object to it: what happened to Robin Wright? When she started out as Buttercup she seemed so warm but the last few things I’ve seen her in she’s been steely and distant. Was marriage to Sean Penn really that soul destroying? Ok, now that the judge has overruled this interjection we will strike it from the record.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I would like to submit to you that this film is shoddily executed, with incompetent direction and shoddy writing leading to a boring muddle of a movie. I encourage you to condemn this movie to as many years of bad movie jail as John Wilkes Boothe has spent in bad-person jail (aka Hell). I wish to thank you in advance for your patience and your good judgment. God Bless America.
Winner: The Cat