The Stream: It takes a bit to get to the real action in the courtroom.
The Big Screen: A strong cast gives energetic and powerful performances across the board.
The Final Bill: A must watch, relevant film for our time.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writers: Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Rating: R (for language, some violence, bloody images and drug use)
Runtime: 2 hour 9 minutes
Well, Streamers, this weekend Netflix premiered one of its prestige pics, The Trial of the Chicago 7. Although set amongst the political unrest in the 1960s, the film seeks to echo today’s political climate with a fraught election impending, a partisan electorate, a pandemic, and daily protests – a political drama like this hits just right. Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed this courtroom drama that’s destined to be in the conversation for major awards attention. Is such awards attention warranted? Here’s how I see it.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is about a trial of 7 activists who were charged with inciting a riot outside of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. The defendants on trial include Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and David Dellinger. In an unfortunate turn of events, Bobby Seale ends up on trial with the “7” even though he had nothing to do with the protests and was only in Chicago for 4 hours on the day of the riot. The trial also features the tireless work of the lawyer for the “7”, William Kuntsler and the ultimate antagonist, Judge Julius Hoffman. This cast of characters is packed with actors giving it their all, including: Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, and Frank Langella, among others.
As courtroom dramas go, The Trial of the Chicago 7 has all of the ingredients to be great, if only based on its screenplay. Aaron Sorkin is an accomplished writer, who won an Academy Award for The Social Network, and he wrote one of the best courtroom monologues of all time from A Few Good Men. If you are not familiar with the history that this story is based on, then there is a lot of foundation to be laid in order to understand where it’s going. Sorkin does a good job in both the screenplay and direction in showing who the characters are, what their motivations may be and setting a tone for the film. The editing of all that is going on between the protests, the interactions of the characters and the procedures of the trial makes it all come together.
As far as the ensemble, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Bobby Seale and he gives such a great performance. He is dynamic and emotional. Whenever he’s on screen, the focus can’t help but be on him. Unfortunately, he isn’t on screen enough and disappears entirely at one point. Also, Mark Rylance is very powerful as William Kuntsler. He gets some of the best lines in the film and becomes a champion for the cause. I can definitely see Rylance and Abdul-Mateen as acting nominees for this. There also a fairly awesome cameo near the end.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is worthy of a big box of popcorn. It is an easy watch that breezes by and is very entertaining. There is a powerful message that resonates in today’s climate.