Movie Reviews

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

the-trial-chicago-7-netflix-movie-review-posterDirector: Aaron Sorkin

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Runtime: 129 Minutes

Main Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharpe, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton

Plot: At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, what was intended to be a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War turned violent. The organisers of the protest were all charged with conspiracy to incite a riot, and this movie is the story of that trial that went on for months.

My Thoughts: Let’s file this under ‘movies that taught Allie about actual history’ because this is another historical event I was oblivious to until now. I guess that’s why movies like this are so important! Courtroom dramas can be difficult to get right I think, when they don’t work they can be slow, dull even, but when they’re done right? They are fascinating, frustrating, and compelling. I’m happy to say that The Trail of the Chicago 7 falls into the latter category for me. I haven’t been this engrossed in a movie since, well…possibly all year, to be honest.

I wouldn’t even pretend to understand American politics so I was a little lost at first but once the trial actually started I was in for the long haul, and it didn’t take long until I was shouting at the TV. It’s the Chicago 7, right, so why are there 8 men on trial? The 8th man was Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party. He was in Chicago during the riot for all of 4 hours, but was brought in essentially so that there was a black man to scare the jury. Think that’s bad? The man didn’t even have a lawyer present! That’s only the start of the shocking, dirty tactics at hand here, I’ll let you see the rest for yourselves.

The movies doesn’t stop outside of the courtroom though, we get to see what happens in between each day of the trial too, as well as flashbacks to what happened in the run up to and during the protest itself. This is where we get to see the relationship between the defense grow stronger but also strain at the seams. It’s a tough movie to sell to the average Netflix user, it certainly doesn’t scream ‘fun’, but I haven’t felt this way about a movie like this since Spotlight (2015). Each performance is on point, and if I’m praising Eddie Redmayne then you know I really mean it, because he normally just winds me up.

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Best Bit:  The cast is stacked, there’s no other way to say it, and everyone puts in 110% making it almost impossible to pick a stand out performance, I could write a whole post in itself just to talk about everyone. Eddie Redmayne reminds me that he’s actually pretty darn talented, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just a delight to see in new movies again but the actor who blew me away was Sacha Baron Cohen. I’ve only seen his silly, comedic roles which he’s great at, and I’ve never seen him like this. He still brings most of the laughs but when he takes the stand as a witness it genuinely shocked me.

Worst Bit: There’s nothing about this movie that makes me want to say “I didn’t like this bit” or “this scene kinda sucked”. Yes, the start confused me a little but that’s on me. But there was a moment that made me so uncomfortable that I felt quite nautious, and that was when *SPOILERS* Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) was dragged out of court and brought back gagged and tied to his chair. Like, that ACTUALLY happened. 

Fun Trivia: As a method actor, Jeremy Strong (Jerry Rubin) begged writer-director Aaron Sorkin to get him teargassed as well as being thrown on the ground by an ex-cop portraying a riot police officer. Sorkin refused to have this happen on set.

My Rating:  A full 5 gavels, and it wouldn’t matter how loud Judge Hoffman smacked them, that room was never going to quiet down in the end.

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10 thoughts on “The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

  1. The trial was a farce as it was one-sided because the judge was an asshole. I wasn’t born during those times but I did remember a lot through docs and such. It didn’t help the fact that Abbie Hoffman was a loudmouth prick who just annoyed the hell out of everyone.

    Fortunately, someone did kick him in the ass and it was Woodstock. During a performance by the Who (who would claim that their show that morning at the festival was their worst), Hoffman interrupted to talk about John Sinclair who was in jail for selling two joints to undercover police men, and Pete Townshend then kicked him in the ass and told him “GET THE FUCK OFF OF MY STAGE”. I go to a rock concert to have a good time and let out whatever anger I’m having. I don’t go to rock concerts to hear about someone’s political bullshit.

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  2. Loved this film. It is my favorite film of 2020 so far. I even watched another film about the trial right afterwards and Sorkin’s vision is so thrilling to watch unfold.

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  3. Because of this film, I found out my boyfriend had no idea who Abbie Hoffman was. I guess he has faded from memory, but he was a pretty big deal back in the day.

    This film finally broke my months-long streak of Good movies. The last movie I Recommended (the reviews that are the best of the best) was on August 26! (Afternoon Delight, if anyone wants to check it out.)

    I think your comparison to Spotlight is apt. Both are detailed movies with a lot of moving parts that do a great job of juggling everything and have a ton of feeling.

    And I was impressed with Eddie Redmayne in this too. I mostly find him okay, but I felt like he embodied an uptight/laid back 60’s radical. I had no idea that was Sascha Baron Cohen playing Hoffman until the end credits!

    In short (too late!) this film was the best part of my October.

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    1. I’m so glad to read your thoughts! It’s felt like such a slow year for movies, but understandably so. When something like this comes along it’s just so great!
      I’m definitely adding Afternoon Delight to my watch list, I’ve watched way too many ‘good’ movies so far so I’d love to see more ‘great’ ones.

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