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Mark your calendar: 'The Conspirator' 

Well, we won't be getting The Conspirator for Christmas this year. No use putting it on your list.

As rumors circulate that the currently-filming-in-London X-Men prequel will be visiting us soon, let's remember that it was precisely a year ago that Robert Redford was in Savannah, directing a drama set in the dark days after the Civil War.

Our other 2009 Hollywood guest, The Last Song, has already come and gone (to DVD). But nary a word has been said about The Conspirator, which features hundreds of Chatham County locals as extras, and a dozen area locations utilized for their timeless look. It finished production last December, about three months after The Last Song company packed up.

Redford premiered the film last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is the sort of event one attends if one is shopping for a distributor.

Following the movie's sole screening, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions ponied up for the rights to distribute The Conspirator. It will be released to theaters in the spring of 2011.

The $20 million movie was bankrolled by the independent American Film Company, with its trumpeted intention of only making films that are factual representations of American history.

The Conspirator is the story of Mary Surratt, the only woman tried, convicted an executed in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Robin Wright stars as Surrat, whose Maryland boardinghouse was a regular meeting place for John Wilkes Booth and his cronies in crime.

The cast also includes James McAvoy as Frederick Aiken, the Union veteran assigned to defend Surratt (against his will), Kevin Kline as the imperious Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Evan Rachel Rood as Surratt's daughter and Tom Wilkinson as McAvoy's supervisor.

In Toronto, Redford told the media: "Lincoln said: A house divided can not stand. Now, in our country, the so-called house is about as divided as it can be. As a result we have a condition of confusion and misrepresentation and it has everybody in turmoil. It's a repeat of that time. I found that pretty interesting but I didn't have to create that. History provides that, this incredible canvas."

In its somewhat checkered review, the Hollywood Reporter said the acting was top-notch, particularly that of McAvoy, but that since so much of the film is set inside a courtroom, it's a tad dry. In fact, said the reviewer, it plays like a TV movie.

Quoth the Reporter: "The Conspirator is never less than thought-provoking and illuminating. It's an answer to those who moan that they don't make movies like they used to. But will those reluctant viewers embrace this new kind of old-fashioned history drama?"

 

 

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Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

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Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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