Friday, April 15, 2011

Military Justice on the Big Screen: The Conspirators

Looking for a good movie to see this weekend?  While out in some theaters before now, today is the official opening day for The Conspirator, Robert Redford's depiction of the military commission for Mary Surratt on charges that she aided in the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.  While the tale is not new, it's based on previously little-known real events, and it's perfectly timed for today's 146th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination.  (A bit of trivia--Lincoln was shot on April 14, but died the next day.)  Last Sunday's Parade magazine cover story was on the film.

Here's an extensive review of the film written by a researcher.  (Spoiler alert--for those who don't know how the saga ends, you might not want to read this.)  Of particular note for military justice practitioners is the portrayal of Surratt's attorney, Frederick Aiken, who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

An avid reader alerted us to the fact that Colonel Fred Borch (retired), currently the regimental historian at the Army JAG School and Legal Center, had a hand in the filmHere is his short biography of Mary Surratt and an interview with Borch.  National Geographic did a special on the story to mark the start of the Civil War.  Here are some YouTube clips on the case, and you can find reviews and additional interviews in the Washington Post and the PBS NewsHour.

This might not be another A Few Good Men (also based--loosely--on a true story), but the film has lessons that resonate even today.

H/t to RDG II.