52. The Conspirator (C)
: It has been said that fifty percent of directing is good casting. If that's the case, then director Robert Redford made a serious mistake casting Alexis Bledel and Justin Long in this movie. They're not the most important characters, but both have key relationships to James McAvoy's protagonist (Bledel plays his love interest, Long plays his war buddy). Without strong actors to play off of outside of court, McAvoy is only able to give an able, but hardly outstanding performance.
That could easily describe most of the rest of the cast; Colm Meany, Danny Huston, Jim True-Frost, and Tim Wilkinson all show up, but fail to impress. Only Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, and Stephen Root (in a small role as an unreliable and drunken witness) make an impression.
It doesn't help that the first 25 mintues of the movie are spent needlessly recapping the events of the Lincoln assassination. Other movies have dramatized these events far better, and they don't provide anything particularly relevent to the plot. There's even a cheesy newspaper montage here that a veteran (and Academy Award-winning!) director like Redford should have been wise enough to avoid. The movie is a courtroom drama, and once it is free to become one it improves markedly.
Still, Redford's direction (and the script, by James D. Solomon) lacks subtlety, often seeking to turn subtext into text. At least the movie has more to say than Redford's vacuous war on terror drama, Lions for Lambs
Home Video: 30 +1