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(2010), PG-13 [PG-13*] (1hr 52.1min)

Final Score
Analysis Date
Date Posted
Influence Density
August 22, 2011
August 23, 2011

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(While the Scriptural references are certainly not subjective, my commentary may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary.

(2010), PG-13 [PG-13*] ... Where is the presumed innocence?

Production (US): American Film Company, The
Distribution (US): Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Director(s): Robert Redford
Producer(s): Robert Redford, Greg Shapiro, Bill Holderman, Brian Flak, Robert Stone, Joe Ricketts, Jeremiah Samuels, Webster Stone
Written by: James Solomon
Story by: James Solomon, Gregory Bernstein
Cinematography/Camera: Newton Thomas Sigel
Music: Mark Isham
Film Editing: Craig McKay
Casting: Avy Kaufman
Production Design: Kalina Ivanov
Art Direction: Mark E. Garner
Viewed on Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD

I cannot confirm the historical accuracy of this film but it seems a woman, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the "conspirator" in the title, was convicted of being party to conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln simply because she owned the boarding house in which seven conspirators boarded. Spoiler Alert: If this film is accurate to the character and caliber of John Surratt, he is quite probably the lowest of the low imaginable since he let his mother hang for his own crimes. [Rev. 21:8]

For four years attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) defended the North as a Captain for the Union Army. On April 9, 1985, a few months after Aiken's incapacitating battlefield injury, Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox courthouse and the civil war was, for all intents and purposes, over.

On the fateful night of April 14, 1865, with the help of Samuel Arnold (Jeremy Tuttle), Lewis Payne (Norman Reedus) and David Herold (Marcus Hester), John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) assassinated President Lincoln and two others of Lincoln's staff at the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. Two weeks after the assassination Booth was cornered in a barn and was shot to death by Union soldiers. Arnold, Payne and Herold and four others are arrested and charged with conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln.

Mary Surratt, a Southerner who had one year earlier moved to Washington, D.C., is also charged with conspiracy if for no other reason than she "harbored" the men in her boarding house. Or is it because her son, John (Johnny Simmons) was friends with Booth? Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) doesn't care. He vows vengeance: so full of vengeance is he that he does not care who hangs for killing Lincoln -- Mary or her son John -- as long as someone hangs. [Rom. 12:19] Stanton's lust for vengeance is fueled by his concern for the state of the country: that it needs closure to the horror of the assassination. As long as someone hangs for the assassination the country would settle itself. So he thought.

Though Surratt is a civilian, she is tried by a military tribunal. In a civilian trial the jury must forward a unanimous vote for the accused to be found guilty. In a military tribunal, only a majority is needed to find the defendant guilty and only two-thirds is required for a death sentence. Further, in a military tribunal the accused is not permitted to testify in his/her own defense. The reigning Attorney General knew this. On top of this manipulation of conditions against Surratt based on mere appearances [John 7:24] former Attorney General and now Maryland Senator Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) -- a Southerner -- who is charged with providing Surratt's defense, orders 27-year old Aiken -- a Northerner -- who has never tried such a case and who doubts her innocence, to build Surratt's defense. Where is the presumed innocence?


Following are brief discussions of the content per individual CAP investigation area. As always the Findings section of this report is the best source for discovering the full accounting of the content of this film.

Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - 55 out of 100
The Conspirator is by any measure a rather violent film. It is a story of violence in violent times but such does not justify the use of violence in and as entertainment when such violence can and has proselytized the viewer, especially the young viewer -- the PG-13 age stratum. There are knife assaults and a custodial gunfire killing but probably the most intense of the violence is the hanging by the neck of four characters, including a woman.

God has tried to warn us of the "catching" nature of violence. [Prov. 16:29, 1 Cor. 15:33] Now man has warned of the same by four public health agencies jointly publishing a warning that entertainment violence can lead the young to real life violence and can warp the perception of violence by youth.

Impudence/Hate (I) - 55 out of 100
Profanity is used 12 times. [Col. 3:8, Eph. 4:29] But most horrendous impudence/hate content found was John Surratt letting his mother hang for his crimes. Such cowardice is deeply frowned upon by God. [Rev. 21:8]

Sexual Immorality (S) - 100 out of 100
There was nothing found that could be considered sexually immoral. The only thing that comes anywhere near sexual was the gentle kiss between Aiken and his girlfriend. And it was not a slurping, gaping-face kiss as are most kisses in PG-13 films nowadays.

Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 11 out of 100
I suspect that drinking is inherent with winning a war but to place such revelry before our youth in and as entertainment is asking for trouble, especially when such behavior carries no consequences in the story. God has warned about drinking [Eph. 5:18] and drunkenness [1 Cor. 5:11]. So has man warned against exposing our youth to drinking and drunkenness in and as entertainment.

A 2002 study by the American College of Physicians (ACP) revealed that adolescent exposure to drinking in and as entertainment undeniably leads to abuse of alcohol among underage viewers. The finding entitled Relation Between Parental Restrictions on Movies and Adolescent Use of Tobacco and Alcohol reports that of 4544 youths from grades 5 through 8 of fifteen Vermont and New Hampshire middle schools (90% of the youths were under fourteen years old) only 16% were completely restricted in their entertainment diets. Within the ACP study population, the prevalence of having tried alcohol without parental knowledge was

  • 46% for those with no viewing restrictions
  • 16% for those with partial viewing restrictions
  • four percent for those with complete viewing restrictions. [Eph. 5:18]

    There is nothing to say that smoking in and as entertainment does not carry the same danger of influence as drinking. Actually, the same matter of behavior influence applies to any behavior demonstrated in and as entertainment, including good behavior.

    Offense to God (O) - 85 out of 100
    The only content in this film applicable to this investigation area is the two uses of God's name in vain. [Deut. 5:11]

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 79 out of 100
    There are three murders portrayed in this film. Two by knife and one by gunfire. One of the knife murders is exceptionally brutal though there is no gore to speak of.


    If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.


  • Rev. 21:8 But the [unforgiven] fearful [deilos {di-los'}; timid, cowardly], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers [sexually immoral], and sorcerers [all forms of evil/magic to force or do harm], and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
  • Rom. 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
  • John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
  • Prov. 16:29 A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. [The issue is the violence, the 'way that is not good' no matter how "small" or "fantasy" or "justified" the violence might seem, and its "leading" effect on the observer. "A violent man" can be any character of any age, any gender, human or not in the act of committing (demonstrating in the case of entertainment) violent behavior/action whether for good or evil OR the violent behaviors/actions themselves. Such exposure can and does embolden the viewer into aggression, especially youth. It took years for the American professional health community to finally affirm, probably without knowing it, that which God told us in 1 Cor. 15:33 below. See also Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children: Congressional Public Health Summit for more information. Their findings include:
    -> Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume the acts of violence are acceptable behavior.
    -> Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can decease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
    -> Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place. Viewing violence increases fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behavior and a mistrust of others.
    -> Viewing violence may lead to real life violence. Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.
    Further, God speaks darkly of violence 56 times in the Old and New Testament of the KJV.]
  • Col. 3:8 But now ye also put off [rid yourself of] all these; anger, wrath, malice [kakia: ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness, depravity, evil, trouble, not ashamed to break laws, etc.], blasphemy [blasphemia: impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty], filthy communication [aischrologia: foul speaking, low and obscene speech] out of your mouth.
  • Eph. 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
  • Eph. 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. [Since "drunk" is methusko {meth-oos'-ko}: to intoxicate; make drunk; to get drunk; become intoxicated, "wine" can be any intoxicating substance including illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs. The issue is do not abuse the body by intoxicating it [1 Cor. 6:19]. Though it is not a sin to drink, it is a sin to get drunk OR to influence to get drunk OR to drink in defiance such as underage drinking.
  • 1 Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
  • 1 Cor. 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. [Vain is shav {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity, such as an expletive. With or without the four letter expletive, the use of God's name in any way other than respect, reverence or responsible discussion and in praise and prayer is in vain. That includes the popular three syllable sentence with His name trailing it AND the misuse of Jesus' name or title. So, trying to excuse such expressions with "I was talking TO God/Jesus when I said that" or It's just words" or "I was acting" will not work with Him. Nor will "Everybody says that" excuse the sin of using His name in vain. If everyone on the planet who has ever drawn a breath used His name in vain, it would still be a sin to do so. If no one ever did, it would still be a sin to do so. Whether we believe it or not. Whether we like it or not. Whether we care or not.]

    Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry

  • Jer. 37:9 This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, 'The Babylonians [the destroyers from within] will surely leave us.' They will not!
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend what is vile, embrace it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it.]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil [kakov: of a bad nature, not such as it ought to be] communications corrupt good manners.
  • Rom. 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
  • Jude 1:4 For there are certain men* crept in unawares [secretly slipped in among us], who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [whose condemnation was written about long ago], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [a license for immorality], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. [Offend: skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} - scandalize; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away.]
  • Ps. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me [let no sin rule over me].
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. ["Evil" includes all things that are sinful.]


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The objective heart of the CAP Analysis Model, independent of and insulated from the Summary / Commentary section.)

    The Conspirator (2010) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - 55 out of 100
  • war dead strewn about a large field
  • war injuries
  • suspicious activities
  • attempted murder by gunfire
  • pistol whipping
  • knife assault with injury
  • hysteria with blood
  • custodial gunfire killing
  • hanging gallows
  • quadruple hanging

    Impudence/Hate (I) - 55 out of 100
  • twelve uses of profanity
  • a son assaulting his mother
  • self starvation

    Sexual Immorality (S) - 100 out of 100
  • none noted

    Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 11 out of 100
  • booze, repeatedly
  • drinking, frequent, including guzzling repeatedly
  • smoking

    Offense to God (O) - 85 out of 100
  • two uses of God's name in vain

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 79 out of 100
  • two stabbing murders, one exceptionally brutal
  • one gunfire murder

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    Please note our new manner of indicating a film's Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating in comparison with the CAP equivalence such as "PG-13 [R-13]." The first term is the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) rating. The second term [in brackets] indicates that which the film earned under the CAP analysis model. In the example, "PG-13 [R-13]" indicates the MPAA rated the film PG-13 but the film earned a CAP final score in the scoring range earned by R-rated movies in the comparative baseline database. Other comparative terms used might be "PG [13-PG]", "G [PG-G] or even 'PG-13 [PG]" as was the case for Alien vs Predator. I doubt there will ever be a "G [R]" used, but only time will tell. The CAP analysis model is Rock-solid. The MPAA is not.

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    PG equivalence: PG-G
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    PG-13 equivalence: PG-13
    R equivalence: R-13
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