Film Review – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Title – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Director – Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game)

Cast – Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton

Plot – The true story of the court room battle of 7 protestors who all found themselves targeted by the government after a series a riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

“We’re not goin’ to jail because of what we did, we’re goin’ to jail because of who we are!”

Review by Eddie on 21/10/2020

After a disappointing first foray in the director’s chair with 2017’s mostly forgotten about Molly’s Game, screenwriting legend and politics focused Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin finds himself back in form with Netflix’s latest high profile release and potential awards player The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Taking us back in the politically charged Vietnam era of America, this based on a true story tale of a group of seemingly peaceful anti-war protestors and movement leaders being targeted by the government system allows Sorkin to once more return to the courtroom setting that he made his name with in 1992’s A Few Good Men and the results, while not quite as memorable or moving as that piece of work or other highpoints of Sorkin’s career like A Social Network, suggest Sorkin has found his grove as a writer/director.

At one stage touted as a potential Steven Spielberg vehicle (Spielberg’s Dreamworks production company is still on board), Trial has a lot of ground to cover as it examines the extensive and drawn out court case of the various reported troublemakers and riot instigators, as well as offering glimpses into the actual events that lead to their very public case, so much so that character development and engagement isn’t as strong as it perhaps could’ve been but with Sorkin’s on fire script and a string of solid performances front and centre throughout, this is one Netflix awards baiter that does most things right.

Without a typical lead as such, Trial manages to give sufficient airplay to its loaded cast that includes Eddie Redmayne as the softly spoken but wise beyond his years Tom Hayden, Sacha Baron Cohen (in one of his rare non-comedic roles) as hippie extraordinaire Abbie Hoffman, rising star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther leader Bobby Seale while Mark Rylance as lawyer William Kunstler and Frank Langella as the despicable judge of the case Julius Hoffman make their marks in numerous well-played out scenes.

It’s always a pleasure watching actors of the caliber that are assembled here getting to play with such well-rounded and sharply written scenes and while it is a shame we don’t get more of an emotional connection to these men and their plights (something no doubt Spielberg would’ve aimed at with more intent), there’s not much of Trial that doesn’t engage you throughout, particularly with its strong sense of time and place and a feeling that this story of justice being sought is more relevant than ever in todays modern political climate.

Final Say – 

It might not quite be a new Sorkin masterpiece but this wonderfully acted and engaging piece of true life courtroom drama is a fine film in its own right and one of the best bets Netflix has as it pushes towards this years award season.

4 caught eggs out of 5

3 responses to “Film Review – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

  1. I saw this a couple of weeks back, and it has quickly joined the ranks of one of my favorite movies of this year. What really sold it for me was the performances of its ensemble cast (especially Abdul-Manteen II and Sacha Baron Cohen), and the parallels that Sorkin makes between the late 60s and today’s political climate.

    You can check out my own review over at my blog, if you’d like.

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