Robert Redford’s The Conspirator tells a story I never knew about. It’s also a story that makes for a tedious, only mildly interesting film. Shot like a History Channel special, we have effective performances from the strong cast but the few moments of palpable drama don’t make up for monotonous remainder.

After a Civil War prologue we jump ahead two years and it is the night of President Lincoln’s assassination. After the infamous event, there is a quick montage where they hunt and kill John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell).

Since only one man couldn’t have planned this, they are after conspirators. Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) is the lone woman who allowed Booth and others in her boarding school, therefore she is put on trial. Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is a new lawyer who is appointed to defend her.

What follows is a standard courtroom drama, punctuated with life only by McAvoy and Wright’s lead performances. Redford gets very little credit here, packing no punch with the drama. Making sure his politics come first distracts from the story that could have been a passionate tale. The dreamy, soft cinematography only adds to the innocuous mood. With so many original films that take a chance here at TIFF, this dry affair seems better suited for a TV special.

5 out of 10

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