4 stars out of 5
There is nothing about this film I didn't like. I think Robert Redford is a genius, and our politics mesh perfectly. James D. Solomon and Gregory Bernstein wrote a terrific story which Solomon made into a pitch-perfect screenplay. Historical docudramas usually get so much wrong, but I teach U.S. history, and they got more right than they got wrong in this one. Robin Wright plays Mary Surratt, accused of being part of the confederate plot to assassinate Lincoln (which is shown briefly at the start of the film). She is no angel, but the film raises almost as many doubts about her guilt as James McAvoy who plays her attorney Frederick Aiken. The trope is familiar; he doesn't want to defend a reviled person, his friends abandon him, he soldiers on. The hissable villain of this piece, as he was in life, was Edwin Stanton played, accurately, by Kevin Kline as the Donald Rumsfeld of his day. That is, a constitution-shredding worshipper of the proposition that the end justifies the means. If you have the slightest interest in American history, or any affection for any of the main actors, this is a must-see.