Wow. Quite a bit to discuss with this movie and less of it positive than I'd hoped. I'm still not exactly sure how I felt about it. Hopefully, by the end of this review I will have formed a true opinion.
Director- Robert Redford
Writer(s)- James Solomon & Gregory Bernstein
Top Billed Cast- James McAvoy, Evan Rachel Wood, & Tom Wilkinson
This movie is, essentially, about the trial of Mary Surratt: The mother of one of the many suspected conspirators behind the Lincoln assassination. It's a study of ethics and poses the question: even if somebody has committed such a heinous crime, do they not still deserve a fair trial? If you were asked to defend a suspected murderer, would YOU act on their behalf and really try to discover the truth? If it interfered with your day to day life? Cost you your job? Your husband/wife? How far would you go to defend what you believe in?
* The color scheme was very consistent from the very first scene.
* I appreciated that they didn't actually *show* Lincoln; it was always the back of his head, his legs, or his profile. There was one single shot that showed his face (other than drawings, which I don't count). Although I'm aware that there are lots of actors that are capable of portraying him and look like him, I think Redford made the right choice with this.
* They did a very nice job with the sound mixing. I think a lot of people don't realize the importance of good sound until it's missing. I try to hear as much "noise" as I can, and this movie did really well with the bugs and what not in the background. Yea for crickets!
* There was a moment when I felt like I was watching CSI: 1800s, and for me, that was fun.
* I'm not sure if she reads this blog but if she does...Whitney, your horse was in this movie! From the slightly dappled winter coat to the star on his forehead and right down to the measly mane (sorry Dusty!), he was definitely a fine steed.
* While they might've had a mixed cast ("Southerners" & "Northerners"), they didn't skimp on pronunciations on either side. I can't even recall how many times I heard "ExacTly", and this made me smile.
* The way this movie was shot was interesting and I felt like at any moment, Wishbone was going to come running on screen in a cute little costume.
* Clarence Sweetwater (Stephen Root). It's ok, you don't have to know who this is. Just know that when I saw him, I smiled and therefore, this is a pro.
* I liked the word choices in the script. I realize that it was a period piece and, therefore, most of the script is going to sound different but that doesn't make the word "writ" sound any less cool in my mind.
* Robin Wright and Evan Rachel Wood did really well in this movie, I was especially impressed with Wright's choices with her character. Wood was a tad over dramatic at times but, the era was also a lot more dramatic in some aspects.
* For a film with several of its leading actors being from countries other than the US, the accents were quite consistent.
* Ok, I had to look this up (actually, I've had to look a lot of things up for this list), but...hats. Hats in the 1860s were primarily outdoor accessories. Were they worn inside? Yes, on occasion, but mostly when going out "calling" or just running errands. Once inside some place they were invited (dinner, a play, a trial...), they would remove them. Maybe if only one or two people were wearing hats it'd be one thing but...all of them? That's a tad intense. I'm not just talking about little hats or even the hats worn a bit later in time as more of a fashion accessory, I'm referring to just a tad fancier than your average Little House bonnet.
* I'm not sure how much of this was director/actor choice but MAN was there absolutely ZERO chemistry between McAvoy and Bledel. Sheesh people. I get that he went off to war and is a changed man but come on, even at the beginning of the movie you couldn't give us something? Anything?
* After shooting the President, Booth rode out of town quiiiiiiiite slowly. I don't know about you, but when I'm trying to get away from somebody, I try to get my horse to run *faster* than the guy on foot. (Note: I'm actually not 100% sure if the guy I'm talking about was Booth..that sequence of events is kind of a blur, but I know that this guy did shoot/attempt to kill somebody and was running away).
* I'm sure they don't hold exclusive rights to it but, Planet of the Apes has a very famous line that was used in this film. I only saw that movie once (and it was the remake) and yet I still recognized it.
* Remember how I noted in the Pros section about it feeling like Wishbone was going to come running in any second? He never showed. This whole movie felt sooooooooo PBS. It's not really a bad thing, I guess? It just was really weird.
* In one of the scenes with Mary Surratt and Fred Aiken (Wright and McAvoy, respectively), Mary quotes Psalm 139. As a former member of a youth choir that sang this song pretty much every week at rehearsal, I know it well. Yet, when Aiken finishes the verse, Surrat says "You know your Proverbs". Sure, she could've just meant that as a general term..but it still bugged me and I'm ok with it if I'm the only one.
* I gave props to the sound people earlier but they really failed in the re-dub department. I truly don't understand why there seems to be such a need for this or why nobody can get it right. Sound mixing is an art, that I get, I just don't get why people seem to be so bad at it. All the time.
* In one scene McAvoy is walking down a dark street...or is he??? -insert Twilight Zone music here-. Either the lighting was so bad that it made him look invisible, or they tried some weird layering technique with the film.
* Zero resolution. I think I'll leave it at that on this one. There might've been resolution to the more "important" plot line but there was no resolution to several others.
This movie is rated PG-13. It's pretty clean minus some drinking, a war scene, and hanging. Be prepared to discuss the events surrounding the assassination of Lincoln as well as the ethics surrounding the trials following. Viewer beware...
This movie confuses me. I like period pieces. I like Lincoln. I like Robert Redford. I like Alexis Bledel. I did not like this movie. It was over two hours of a horrendously slow plot. I understand that trials back then, and even now, are slow but 1 witness a day? Like 3 questions MAX per witness? It just seemed that this might've done better on that network it already resembled so much, PBS.
I made a note that the fight they were fighting in the movie is basically the one we're fighting today: stay true to the constitution? Or, give the people what they think they want?
I just didn't feel it. I was frustrated with the lack of "oh my gosh, I can not believe that just happened!"s and "these performances are amazing!"s...not even that many "wow, look at that set..this is such a well done movie!"s. It felt cheap. It felt long. And I was disappointed. 3/5 stars is being generous.