Robert E. Lee’s Army surrendered to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 and after six days President Lincoln was assassinated. Ten days later, the assassin John Wilkes Booth was killed by Union soldiers in Virginia. But on the day Lincoln was shot, he went into a coma and the War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton wanted answers. Very soon one of Booth’s colleague, a John Surratt was identified. John had left town, so his mother Mary Surratt was taken into custody. Robert Redford’s gripping period movie follows the trial of Mary Surratt
Mary was the owner of a boarding house in which the conspirators stayed and that was a fact she never denied. To defend her before a military tribunal a reluctant lawyer — a 27 year old civil war hero by the name of Fredrick Aiken is appointed. Mr. Aiken believes that his client is guilty and he reluctantly defends her because he was forced to by his mentor who believes that the constitution is applicable during war time as well.
But as the trial proceeds he changes; from being certain that Mary was guilty, he becomes unsure of her role. Despite the fact that the military tribunal worked against him, never giving him the freedom to work the case, he manages to convince everyone that Mary was not guilty. But Mary becomes the first woman to be executed by United States because Edwin M. Stanton believes that, “They assassinated the President and someone must be held accountable.”
After the preachy and boring Lions for Lambs, this is an excellent movie which goes into deeper questions about nation, laws, war and the people who have to make tough decisions in the midst of all these.