The Conspirator

  • Review Date: April 12, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Historical drama tells compelling tale; some violence.
  • Review Date: April 12, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

Age(i)

2
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5
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8
9
10
11
12
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15
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's ultimate message is that honor, justice, and the American Constitution should always trump political expediency. Also, no matter how challenging a task might seem, you must rise up to it and have the courage of your own convictions.

Positive role models

Frederick is a principled man. No matter the repercussions of representing an accused criminal, he defends her anyway -- and eventually becomes passionate about securing justice for her. Other characters aren't always what they first seem; those who theoretically should be acting for the greater good don't always do so, while those who might seem to be less upstanding have surprising strength and purpose.

Violence

Lincoln's assassination is shown in a harrowing sequence that unfolds in surprising detail. Blood is shown, but the actual wounds aren't. A connected attack is quite vicious -- a man stabs another who's lying helpless in bed, knifing him several times. John Wilkes Booth is shot dead. A hanging takes place in front of a crowd; it, too, plays out with agonizing specificity (including wince-inducing soud effects). Soldiers carry and use guns; the movie's opening shows dead/wounded men on a Civil War battlefield. A young woman is threatened; rocks are thrown through her window.

Sex

A couple kisses; some flirting.

Language

Infrequent use of words like “damned," "hell," "oh my God," and "arse," plus a couple of uses of "s--t."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking. A few characters use alcohol as "liquid courage" and take shots to fortify themselves before difficult tasks, and at one point, the main character turns to drink when all seems lost. One witness seems drunk in court. Era-accurate smoking, including during court proceedings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Robert Redford-directed historical drama centers on the assassination of President Lincoln and its aftermath -- specifically, the real-life trial of Mary Surratt, who was accused of being part of the plot. Playing out largely as a courtroom drama, the movie uses history to explore the conflict between justice and politics and offers plenty to talk and think about. There’s some violence (including blood from fatal wounds, a vicious knife attack, and the frank depiction of a hanging), drinking, and smoking, as well as mild, period-accurate swearing ("s--t," "damned," etc.).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

That Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is a patriot is no great mystery. A decorated Civil War hero, he was the type of man who stepped up to the proverbial plate time and again. But even he can’t escape unscathed from his next mission: Defend the sole female accused in the murder of president Abraham Lincoln, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright). She ran the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators met, but exactly how much did she know? Is she as innocent as she claims? As Surratt’s appointed defense counsel, Aiken feels he has no choice but to perform the job to the best of his duties, even if it earns him the scorn of fellow citizens still reeling from the assassination of the commander-in-chief. But ultimately Mary's case leads him to question his own prejudices, too.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Although it was directed by film icon Robert Redford -- THE CONSPIRATOR belongs to McAvoy. He convincingly inhabits the role of Aiken, a war hero given the thankless task of defending the woman charged with plotting Lincoln's assassination, portraying him as both determined and ambivalent, sometimes at the same exact time. Always subtle in her portrayals, Wright makes Surratt approachable and, in turn, sympathetic. (And, also frustrating -- why wouldn’t she cooperate with the authorities?) But Wright’s depiction is cold, and we don’t ever quite forget that this is an actress playing Surratt.

But the film’s biggest flaw isn’t the acting, costumes, or lighting. It’s that it's curiously slack for a being a courtroom thriller. That the facts of the case have long been known may have somewhat hobbled the momentum -- we know how this story ends, after all. But that’s no excuse for predictable storytelling and scenes lit so brightly you wonder whether the camera broke at some point, leading to overexposure. That said, The Conspirator is still engrossing -- and moving. It's fascinating to be able to see how events unfolded that fateful night.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Mary Surratt’s case. Do you think she was guilty? Do you think she received a fair trial and a just sentence?

  • How closely do you think this film adheres to history? How many liberties with the facts do you think such a film can take? Why might filmmakers decide to do that?

  • What are the movie's messages? What does it say about the American justice system? Do you think anything similar could happen today?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 15, 2011
DVD release date:August 16, 2011
Cast:James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Robin Wright Penn
Director:Robert Redford
Studio:Roadside Attractions
Genre:Drama
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some violent content

This review of The Conspirator was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 12 year old Written bycolten97 May 12, 2011
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

An eye-opening film, with an exemplary ensemble cast

Robert Redford has assembled an impressively strong cast to bring to the screen a very important and poignant story. Watching this film a couple of weeks ago, I did not know what to expect. What I got was a great film about the trials of the people that were involved behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Robin Wright delivers one of the best performances of her career, in a role that seemed tailor-made for her. Redford follows up a politically charged film with a historically charged film, that definitely is not light on the politics. However, he does succeed at presenting the unknown story of a loving mother and clearly stating the events that followed Lincoln's assassination. The film transported me back in time. Beautifully shot, supported by amazing art direction and costumes, and driven by James McAvoy strong performance, "The Conspirator" stands as a movie for the times, that will definitely be revisited for years to come.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byStonesNYC@aol.com April 15, 2011
AGE
12
QUALITY
 
This movie is so good for telling us (and kids from middle school through college) about an unknown, important story within one of the most important events in American history.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 15 years old Written byTheSuperman765 April 16, 2011
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

a really good way to introduce abe lincolns death

The good stuff * Messages: The movie's ultimate message is that honor, justice, and the American Constitution should always trump political expediency. Also, no matter how challenging a task might seem, you must rise up to it and have the courage of your own convictions. * Role models: Frederick is a principled man. No matter the repercussions of representing an accused criminal, he defends her anyway -- and eventually becomes passionate about securing justice for her. Other characters aren't always what they first seem; those who theoretically should be acting for the greater good don't always do so, while those who might seem to be less upstanding have surprising strength and purpose. What to watch out for * Violence: Lincoln's assassination is shown in a harrowing sequence that unfolds in surprising detail. Blood is shown, but the actual wounds aren't. A connected attack is quite vicious -- a man stabs another who's lying helpless in bed, knifing him several times. A hanging takes place in front of a crowd; it, too, plays out with agonizing specificity. Soldiers carry and use guns. A young woman is threatened; rocks are thrown through her window. * Sex: A couple kisses; some flirting. * Language: Infrequent use of words like “damned” and “hell." * Consumerism: Not an issue. * Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Some social drinking. A few characters use alcohol as "liquid courage" and take shots to fortify themselves before difficult tasks. Very strong. * Consumerism: Not an issue. * Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Cigarettes and alcohol.
What other families should know
Too much violence

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