When it comes to American presidents, Abraham Lincoln stands atop a lofty pedestal all by himself — beyond reproach and certainly beyond scandal. It’s hard to conjure a mental picture other than that of the marble Lincoln Memorial statue, seated in Washington, D.C., as the words of the Gettysburg Address carved into its wall hammer away at the brain.
A similarly rigid image is at work in “The Conspirator,” based on the story of Lincoln’s assassination and the subsequent trial of Mary Surratt, who ran the boarding house frequented by John Wilkes Booth and others involved in the crime. Surrat was accused of running “the nest that hatched the rotten egg,” as one of the lines goes in the movie. For this, she was tried by a military tribunal and hanged. She was 42.