The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Matee II, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levit and Michael Keaton
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Length: 130mins

In August 1968, a protest that sought the end of the war in Vietnam was held in Chicago. Amongst those protesting, groups such as the Youth International Party, Students for a Democratic Society and Black Panthers were all involved. Five months after the protest and it’s bloody aftermath, we witness the case against the leaders of these parties, and ‘The Trial of Chicago 7’ portrays their struggle against an unjust injustice system.

Marketed by Netflix as having an outstanding ensemble cast, and being both written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind some of the greatest-written films of the last decade, such as ‘Moneyball’ and ‘The Social Network,’ it’s easy to see the appeal of a film like this from the audience’s perspective. However, the deeper you dive into the story that’s on show here, the greater you can see parallels being made between the injustices of 1960’s America and our modern society, and ultimately this idea becomes one of the most important elements of the film.

It’s no secret that there’s a lot less films in consideration at awards shows for 2020 releases, and there’s been talk of nominations for members of the films cast, such as Eddie Redmayne in the position of Lead Actor. To give credit where it’s due, Redmayne’s performance both vocally and physically was impressive, with his interpretation of the character feeling entirely natural, despite it being a contrast to his regular persona. Within the context of the film however, the story never seemed to spend enough time developing his character to where it appeared to be a lead role. Towards the latter end of the film there are conflicts that he must overcome, but until that point, the film truly does seem like a portrayal of an equal ensemble cast. In fact, I would say that there’s a fair argument to make that Yayha Abdul Mateen II gave perhaps the most impressive and important performance of the film. In recent years he has only gone from success to greater success, and I imagine that in years to come he will be a very big name within the industry. The use of an ensemble cast is definitely not a bad thing however, as each member of the ‘Chicago 7’ and their defence team bring something fresh and exciting to the table. Narratively, they progress the story seamlessly through their relationships with one another and their actions inside and outside of the courtroom, ultimately making it a very entertaining watch. 

In terms of the film’s cinematography and structure, it doesn’t really add anything new or exciting, but it can’t be denied that even despite the heavy issues at hand, the story flows excellently and at no point did I feel uninterested in the verbal conflict that was fought within the courtroom. Whilst Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue within this particular film can often feel unnaturally overdramatic through its use of statistics, quotes and overall timing, there is an undoubtable rhythm to his work that he himself attributes to his time spent watching theatre as a child. He states that “even though I didn’t understand what was happening on stage I loved the sound of dialogue, it sounded like music to me and I wanted to imitate that.”

Despite the occasional cheesy line of dialogue, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ is an entertaining watch with a strong, real-life story behind it, and I would recommend the film to anyone scrolling through Netflix, unsure what to put on during this second lockdown.

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