On 14 April 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. He languished over the night before he passed way early the next morning. He was 56. For the first time in our country, we had an assassinated President, and our country was outraged. In the desolation left by the Civil War, we not only had to deal with rebuilding our country, but coming to grips with this new tragedy.
In the days and weeks after the assassination of our 16th President, Booth’s co-conspirators were rounded up and tried in a military tribunal. That is essentially what this film tells the story of. But it focuses on one person: Mary Surratt.
Instead of being a film about her guilt or innocence, the film, instead, focuses more upon the personal struggle of her lawyer, Fredrick Aiken, who had fought as a Union Soldier during the War. At first, when he is asked to take the case, he is reluctant because he firmly believes that Surratt is guilty. He wants to see her hanged just as much as the rest of the country does. It is a gradual change that allows him to see that his client deserves a Civil Trial, not a Military Tribunal.
Perhaps this was Robert Redford’s chance to get his message out about the trials at Guantanamo Bay. I don’t know. I don’t care. From a strictly Historical Standpoint, this was an excellent film. From a Cinematic Standpoint, everyone involved, from Redford to Robin Wright to James McAvoy did a phenomenal job. Certainly if this is the stand I have to look forward to from American Film Company, then I will anticipate their next films with baited breath.
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