Robert Redford focuses on the chaotic moment in history directly following President Lincoln's assassination to tell the story of the proud mother charged with committing the monumental crime, and the ambitious young lawyer who reluctantly becomes her defense attorney. The Civil War has ended, and upon returning home, Union War hero Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) endeavors to enter the world of politics by establishing himself as a lawyer. Though a high-society ball provides Aiken with the unique opportunity to gain an audience with standing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline), history intervenes when John Wilkes Booth fires the fateful bullet that ends the president's life. The nation is soon engulfed in turmoil as a massive manhunt for Booth's collaborators commences, leading lawmen to Confederate sympathizer Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), whose son John has become a prime suspect, yet remains dubiously out of reach. Meanwhile, as the American public cries out for justice, former attorney general Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) persuades Aiken to act as Mrs. Surratt's defense lawyer, and the mounting pressure both in and out of the courtroom begins to weigh on the conflicted barrister's conscience as the pressure turns up on John to give himself up, and save his mother from paying for his crime in the gallows. Kevin Kline, Alexis Bledel, Evan Rachel Wood, and Justin Long co-star.
by Jason Buchanan synopsis