Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: Strong coarse language
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Deale
Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman
Daniel Flaherty as John Froines
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz
Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark
Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman
John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger
Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden
Noah Robbins as Lee Weiner
Mark Rylance as William Kunstler
Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis
Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin
Director: Aaron Sorkin
The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. The cast alone had my interest, with the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Eddie Redmayne and more involved. Then there’s the writer and director Aaron Sorkin, who’s the writer behind fantastic scripts for The Social Network and Steve Jobs. Not only that, but the event it’s based on has a lot of potential for a great movie, with it being quite significant and infamous. This film had been in development for quite some time, Sorkin wrote the script in 2007 and it had been passed around to other directors before finally he decided to direct it himself. The Trial of the Chicago 7 ended up being a really great movie and I loved watching it from beginning to end.
One of the strongest parts of the film no surprise is Aaron Sorkin’s script. It has all the things you’d expect from his writing, snappy and captivating dialogue, a fast pace, and memorable moments. I was actively captivated throughout, Sorkin does very well at locking you in with what’s happening from beginning to end. Much of the movie is a courtroom drama, and this certainly ranks among the best courtroom dramas from recent years. There are some very strong parallels to current events with regard to protests, police brutality and the like (even when the story takes place in the late 60s), and there are many impactful moments. You can get quite frustrated with some of what happens during the trial, and this really showed the movie’s effectiveness. Some people have complained about Sorkin’s ‘Sorkinisms’ in this movie, with some of the dialogue choices and especially with how he chose to represent certain events on screen, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get some of the criticisms. There are definitely moments that didn’t happen like that in real life. The ending especially is such a feel good ending that might actually be too much for some people, it’s one of those scenes from biopics where you don’t even need to read up on the real life events to tell that it never happened. I would’ve liked to have seen a darker and more accurate representation of events for sure. Then again this is Sorkin, and we’ve come to expect this from him.
There’s a massive ensemble cast for this movie, and everyone is great on their parts. I’ll start with my favourites from the film. Sacha Baron Cohen and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II were the scene-stealers for me. Yahya particularly had such a screen presence and does so much in his screentime, I just wish we got more scenes of him because he was truly fantastic. Another standout performance was from Mark Rylance, who is also great as the lawyer defending the Chicago 7. Eddie Redmayne plays really the lead of the movie, he’s the character who goes through the most development over the course of the movie. It’s certainly a different performance from him, but it’s a surprisingly effective performance, and particularly plays off Cohen very well. The rest of the Chicago 7 were acted well by actors like John Caroll Lynch and Jeremy Strong. Other performances were also great, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the federal prosecutor, Michael Keaton as an attorney general in an important role later in the story, as well as Frank Langella as the judge.
As many people will say, Aaron Sorkin the writer is way better than Aaron Sorkin the director. I did like his first film Molly’s Game, but it showed that he still had a way to go as a filmmaker. His work on Trial of the Chicago 7 is definitely a step above his first movie. The strongest part of the movie on a technical level is the editing, which really works in favour of the script. This is particularly the case in the opening 10 minutes which efficiently sets up and explains so many things that happened prior to the event that sparked the trial. Additionally in the script there are many flashforward and flashback scenes, and while it could’ve been disorientating, Sorkin really pulled it off and made it effective. With all that being said, whenever Sorkin’s scripts are made into movies by top tier directors like David Fincher and Danny Boyle, they brought the scripts to another level to create fantastic films. If Trial of the Chicago 7 was given to someone of that caliber, it probably would’ve been even better. Still, I would say the direction was good. The score by Daniel Pemberton is also good, not amongst his all time best work, but it worked really well for this movie.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is currently one of my favourite movies of the year. It felt like an inspiring courtroom thriller made in the 90s, and I mean that in the best way possible. The timely, entertaining and engaging story, the fantastic script and outstanding acting alone makes it really worth watching.