Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

 The whole world is watching.


During the 1968 Democratic Convention, protests over the Vietnam War were made by several different groups and this film focuses on seven of the men (well, technically eight, but we'll get to that) charged with inciting riots. There's Tom Hayden and Rennie Sharp (Eddie Redmayne and Alex Sharpe) of the Students for a Democratic Society. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin ( Sasha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong) of the Youth International party and David Dellinger, (John Carroll Lynch) John Froines (Danny Flaherty) and Lee Weiner. (Noah Robbins) The 8th man, is Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) a member of the Black Panther party who is being unfairly lumped in with the rest of the group, despite not having a lawyer present. Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) is unfair to say the least so the defense lead by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) has a lot to go up against. The prosecutor on the other side is Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

And I have to stop there because half of this review would just be listing everyone in this sprawling and extraordinary cast. I love courtroom dramas, and one directed and written by Aaron Sorkin has been on my must see list all year. I'm glad Netflix picked this up so I could see it right away. While I did have some issues with it, it's one of the better films I've gotten to see in a while. 

"Sorkinisms" can be a hard pill to swallow for some, but I've always enjoyed his fast paced dialogue and editing and there's plenty of that here. I especially loved hearing it from Lynch, Strong, and Cohen, though the latter struggles with his accent at times. It's hard to pick a standout actor, but if I had to I think I'd go with Yahya, who has had an excellent year. But that leads me to one of my gripes

I know this movie is about the Chicago 7, which Bobby Seale was technically not part of, and that it's impossible to tell their story without him, but I was disappointed at how his part was sort of just dropped until the end credits. For something that is such a huge part of the first half of the film, I expected to at least check in with him sometime in the second half, and they don't. Logically I can see why that is, but Yayah was so compelling and what happened to Seale was so outrageous it felt like it needed more attention. On a another note, there's a very unnecessary attempted rape scene by three frat boys on a woman carrying a flag at a protest that's broken up by Jeremy Strong's character that I just found very triggering to me personally and that threw me out for a bit. It's brief but I wasn't expecting it. I wish I had known it was coming so I could've skipped over it. It's about an hour into the film. 

Aside from those two issues, I really enjoyed the flow of the film. I loved how the characters were introduced at the beginning and how the story is told through not only the courtroom, but through things like Abbie narrating the story to a crowd. And I'm just happy to see my favorite actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in movies again. It's been so long, and we got three this year. His character isn't nearly as showy as the others, and from my understanding he's pretty whitewashed as they make him somewhat sympathetic, but I was just happy to see him. I feel like I've been clowning on Eddie Redmayne in recent years, but he was damn good in this too. 

This election year has been very stressful, and Sorkins' film might as well be happening right now. What's the difference between 1968 and now? That we can get police brutality on camera? Everything else feels the same. This film functions both as a great movie, and a depressing reminder of where we're still at.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "This is the Academy Awards of protests and as far as I'm concerned it's an honor just to be nominated." - Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins)

16 comments:

  1. I'm almost definitely going to be watching that this week. Glad to hear it's good.

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  2. I have heard good things about this film. I am assuming this would have been in the film theatres if not for Covid?

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    1. I think so. Paramount was originally releasing it, then i think netflix bought it from them so they could put it on streaming.

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  3. I do want to see this film, despite my disdain for Eddie Redmayne, as I feel like it's something to be seen for the times we're in.

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    1. I think Eddie is pretty good in this. He has a good hold on his accent.

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  4. The cast is tremendous, and I'm really looking forward to this one. Glad you enjoyed it, and lovely review as always.

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  5. I love courtroom dramas too and though I was too little to remember the riots at the Democratic convention I have vague memories of this trial so I'll have an extra in when I catch up with the movie.

    Where I might have some trouble is accepting the actors as the characters they are playing. For instance Redmayne as Tom Hayden is just so completely a mismatch, especially since I've seen so many pictures of him from his years married to Jane Fonda when they were protesting various issues.

    On the other hand Cohen sounds a good match up for Abbie Hoffman so I'll see. It sounds worth the time.

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    1. Yeah, Eddie doesn't look like that guy at all but I think he nails the voice pretty well. I hope you like this!

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  6. I really thought I was the only one who kind of hated Eddie Redmayne but I've learnt otherwise this week!
    I LOVED this movie, if the word love is appropriate for this kind of flick. My post could easily have turned into a ramble of just how great the cast was.

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    1. Everyone hates Redmayne because of this Oscar thirst during The Theory of Everything's run. (Which I make fun of, but I honestly think he deserved it)

      I'm glad you liked it too!

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  7. Definitely watching this when I have the time. I was thinking of doing a double feature of this and then Mysterious Skin because I need to catch up on JGL older movies still.
    Too bad about Yahya's character being pushed aside. I loved him in Watchmen and I'm excited for him in the Candyman too.

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    1. Mysterious Skin is a HARD watch but I think it's JGL's best performance. He's so good in that. I can't wait to hear what you think of both!

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  8. That scene was so hard to watch and made me like Strong's character even more, it was definitely the most upsetting scene in the whole movie

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    1. It was easily the most upsetting scene for me, but I really don't think he needed it. He could've just saved someone from something else if he needed the audience to like him more.

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