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The Emotional Core
Behind the conspiracies and the political machinations, according to Solomon, beats the emotional heart of the film: the story of a mother and a son. "Here is a mother in a desperate situation essentially abandoned by her son. Another young man steps in and becomes a surrogate son to this mother. He stays and fights to the very end while her own son doesn't come to defend or rescue her.”

That surrogate son is Frederick Aiken, a young, decorated Union war hero just beginning his career as an attorney. He reluctantly represents Mary and comes to passionately fight for her within a system bent on executing Mary Surratt, and her co-defendants. "In The Conspirator,” Redford says, "events trigger an emotional struggle in both Mary and Aiken that challenge their conceptions of duty, honor and loyalty. How they respond to those challenges creates this compelling story.”

Solomon agrees, "It's a story about allegiances and loyalties and divided loyalties.” Aiken, a Union captain with an allegiance to Lincoln and the northern cause for which he fought valiantly, works with Reverdy Johnson (TOM WILKINSON), a southern senator and attorney who was forced, like all southerners, to take a hated loyalty oath after the war. Aiken admires his mentor and understands his duty as a lawyer, but struggles at first with his own distaste for the alleged assassins. As he delves further into Mary's case, he finds his loyalties further divided andsuffers the disapproval of the community and his closest friends. He meets his match in Mary, a mother holding fast her allegiance to her family and, perhaps, the southern cause.

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