Tag: James McAvoy

The Conspirator

April 7th, 2011 — 7:25pm


The Conspirator- sp You may think you know the story about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln but you don’t know Jack ! You probably most certainly don’t know the story of one of the so called conspirators Mary Surratt who ran the boarding house where John  Wilkes Booth met with his friends one of whom was her son. Producer Brian Falk is part of a new production company called the American Film Company, which has a mission to make films about American history. When he came across this 18 year old screenplay by James D. Solomon  about this story, the company decided it should be their debut movie. They took a chance and showed the script  to producer Bill Holderman who is a partner in Robert Redford’s company and the next thing they know they have Redford directing it and they were able to put  together an all star  cast. It then seems that they became obsessed about the authenticity and had a team of historians not only vet the script but were on speed dial for every detail of the film from the courtroom trial transcripts to the exact buttons on the soldier’s uniforms. The story starts off focusing on Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) a young wounded Union officer on the battlefield. It turns out that he is a lawyer in civilian life and shortly after he leaves the military he is being pressured by his senior law associate (Tom Wilkerson) to defend Mary Surratt (Robin Wright). The trial is being conducted by a military court ( think Guantanamo) with judge and jury being Union soldiers and an ace prosecutor Joseph Holt  (Danny Huston ) with Secretary of  War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) trying to call the shots from behind the scenes. Besides being a  fascinating piece of little known history, the film is beautifully photographed, with near perfect period costumes but yet it draws the viewer in and makes you feel that you are watching a very real life high stakes drama. Of course this is also a thinking person’s movie and you have to come away appreciating how the strength of our constitution gets tested from time to time and you wonder if it passed the test after Lincoln got shot as we sometimes wonder how it is doing today. Speaking of Lincoln, this movie opens April 15th on the day of his death. We highly recommend it as one of the best films we have seen this year.(2011)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

The Last Station

January 16th, 2010 — 2:38am

The Last Station* * * *
The Last Station
– sp – Leo Tolstoy died in 1910. This is the story of his last year based on a novel by Jay Parini with a screenplay written and directed by Michael Hoffman. Helen Mirren is as good as she ever has been ( and that is saying a great deal ) in her role as Sofya Tolstoy . Leo Tolstoy himself is played magnificently by Christopher Plummer who looks amazingly like the real Tolstoy seen in the film clips shown with the credits at the end of the film. It is the story of this great revered writer who at this late stage of his life has many devoted followers and is leading a movement of peace, love and putting aside the material things in life. The relationship of Leo and Sofya after 47 years of marriage is being examined or perhaps tested as Tolstoy accepts the idea put forth by his devotee Vladimir Chertkov played by mustache twirling Paul Giamitti, that the rights to his work belong to the Russian people and not his family as Sofya vociferously contends. James McAvoy is Valentin Bulgakov, Tolstoy’s young sensitive and naive secretary who is closely observing the struggles of his employer/hero as he himself has just discovered a meaningful relationship with a young woman. Producer Bonnie Arnold related to our preview audience how the movie idea was originally that of Anthony Quinn who hoped to star in it but all the pieces did not come together for him. It was filmed mostly in the East German countryside where Russia in the early 1900s could be recreated including the Tolstoy estate and authentic railroad and station scenes. The Russian backers of the film, which were part of the international consortium, that raised 17 million dollars to make it, required that the music background be composed and recorded in Russia. Sergey Yevtushenko subsequently did just that and his beautiful piano music added greatly to the mood of the film. The relationship between Leo and Sofya as played by two great actors is nuanced in so many ways and is the highlight of the movie all be it perhaps a tad overly dramatic. This may have been why we were always aware we were watching a film and didn’t get completely drawn into it as we both felt should have been the case. Perhaps also if we had read the book or were better students of this part of Russian history we might have also better appreciated their conflict, which was the essence of the story. (2009)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Romance

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