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The Conspirator: Deluxe Edition Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Blu-ray Release Date: August 16, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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The Conspirator - Widescreen Subtitle AC3 Dolby Dts

Purchase The Conspirator on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)


The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Nearly every American should be familiar with accounts of President Abraham Lincoln’s murder by the actor John Wilkes Booth. The Conspirator takes a different approach to this watershed moment in our nation’s history by focusing on the trial that followed the capture of the conspirators. This Robert Redford directed film focuses on the process or lack thereof in the legal defense of Mary Surratt, an innkeeper, who housed some of the men involved in Lincoln’s assassination. This precedent-setting case led to the first government sanctioned execution of a woman.  Director Redford, a master craftsman before and behind the camera, turns a well-worn story into an insider’s view of the Surratt case. However, the retelling of the events following the Lincoln shooting would be old news were it not for an outstanding cast and script.

Led by James McAvoy as defense attorney Frederick Aiken, Robin Wright (Mary Surratt), Kevin Kline (Secretary of War Edwin Stanton),  and Tom Wilkinson (lawyer Reverdy Johnson), the actors could hardly be better.  This “hear it now” Edward R. Murrow-esque approach to history is both effective and intriguing. While the video detail is somewhat grainy for current Blu-ray releases, the camera work does a good job in conveying the growing intensity of the moment. The court room drama of mid-19th century America, set in a dingy tribunal room is nothing less than  riveting and compares favorably with films of previous high profile trials such as Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremburg.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

While this is obviously a period piece, I was somewhat disappointed in the quality of the print. Doubtless, makeshift courtrooms of the Civil War era were not visually appealing. Given the intensely personal nature of this trial, more facial detail on the close up shots would have been appreciated. There is a dusty haze that permeates the courtroom which does not help the cause of clarity either. On the other hand, the videography generally does justice to the nature of a trial with appropriate cutaways and close ups, keeping the drama from becoming static and stagnant.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The soundtrack is rather pedestrian and ponderous. However, where it counts, dialogue is crisp and clear. There is rather little atmosphere or surround effect in the extra channels, even with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4.5/5]

For those less familiar with the significant historical events of this era, I would heartily recommend the “Conspirator” documentary. It underscores how closely this film tried to follow the known facts of the Surratt case and the principals involved.

This is BD is chock-full of welcome extras:

  • Commentaries by director Robert Redford.
  • Feature-length documentaries:
    • The Conspirator: The Plot to Kill Lincoln
    • The Making of  The Conspirator
    • Introduction to The American Film Company
  • 10 “Witness History” featurettes
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, already recreated in numerous documentaries and pseudo-documentaries, has rarely been better served than by The  Conspirator. Whether Mary Surratt was truly guilty of aiding her son and his co-conspirators in this country’s  most publicized presidential assassination, JFK’s notwithstanding, may never be truly known. The Conspirator, a sympathetic treatment of Surratt’s case, will not resolve this issue to  everyone’s satisfaction. However, the performances of Robin Wright and James McAvoy take this film to a very high level and give a startling currency to the proceedings. The shortcoming of this movie which may be a problem for some viewers is the graininess of the print. While this might have been a conscious decision by the  director, cinematographer, and producers, I would have preferred a higher definition film. That aside, The Conspirator’s intensity, strength of its cast, and director’s perspective make it an unforgettable watch. And, by all means, look at the extras, they are truly worth your while.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004LWZVZM[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
The Conspirator - Widescreen Subtitle AC3 Dolby Dts

Purchase The Conspirator on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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