Today, coinciding with the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death, Robert Redford has released a new film called The Conspirator. To summarize:
In the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary of State. The lone woman charged, Mary Surratt, 42, owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks. Against the ominous back-drop of post-Civil War Washington, newly-minted lawyer, Frederick Aiken, a 28-year-old Union war-hero, reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal. As the trial unfolds, Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait and hostage in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her own son.
Now watch the trailer and then I will continue.
Why is it so important to see historical films in the theater? It’s very simple. If you don’t shell out the cash, Hollywood doesn’t think anyone is interested in seeing movies of this type. It’s easy to say, “I’ll just wait for it to come out on DVD,” but the lack of numbers in the theaters means these movies will be available on fewer and fewer screens. There is already a reputation out there of historical films not making enough money to really entice filmmakers to contribute to the genre. Some of the best films out there are historical films but they’re not getting much press attention because people are choosing to wait for the DVDs. The recent remake of Jane Eyre was great but it barely made any money.
These films are important, more important than explosion-riddled epic blockbusters with thin plotlines, because they open people’s eyes to how interesting history is. While most of these films are not substitutes for the reality in history books, I have witnessed time and time again how someone previously uninterested in history suddenly has the spark of interest when something strikes them in a historical film. If seeing history brought to life on the big screen is what it takes to spark the interest in people to think more about it, then we need to do all we can to support historical films. In the case of this film, interesting casting has brought in names like James McAvoy, Evan Rachel Wood and Alexis Bledel. These names appeal and draw in younger audiences. McAvoy has a growing female following, Wood is a popular actress on True Blood and has also just appeared in the acclaimed HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, and Bledel has been in many popular roles such as Gilmore Girls and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants franchise.
So this weekend, even if you hadn’t considered seeing The Conspirator before, please give it a try. Help us support the historical genre in the film industry. These movies need to continue being made. If there are more successful historical films, more prominent directors would be willing to take on these projects. Don’t wait for the DVD. Take the family down to the movie theater this weekend.