The Trial of the Chicago 7
Where to Watch: Netflix
Before I start this review, I have a bit of a confession to make. Aaron Sorkin is not my favorite filmmaker working today. I find his dialogue unnatural and it often insists on its cleverness. With all this said, I went into his latest film, The Trial of the Chicago 7, with no expectations. And I’m glad I did, because I got an enjoyable film with very captivating performances.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 tells the story of seven people from different walks of life who get arrested for protesting the Vietnam War. Based on a real-life case, the film discusses injustices of the American legal system, what it means to be committed to a cause, and how the same cause can mean different things to different people.
Personally, I enjoyed the movie enough. Almost every performance in The Trial of the Chicago 7 blew me away. This film made me a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. His performance as activist Abbie Hoffman really shifted my perception of him.
Something else that stood out is the cinematography. It isn’t technologically groundbreaking, but it is a huge part of the storytelling.
Lastly, I want to talk about the movie’s tone. The Trial of the Chicago 7 knows when to be comedic and when to be serious. In the movie’s most powerful scene, Abbie Hoffman argues with fellow defendant Tom Hayden (played masterfully by Eddie Redmayne) about protesting the Vietnam War and says the movie’s most powerful line; “Winning elections, that’s the first thing on your wish list? Equality, justice, education, poverty and progress, they’re second?” This is the film’s turning point, and perfectly demonstrates our current political climate.
As much as I’d like to only discuss the positives, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t address the downfall. Previously, I established there were performances I didn’t enjoy. Specifically, Frank Langella’s performance as Judge Julius Hoffman. I found this performance to be just surface level. I don’t know if this was the writing, but I felt this character didn’t carry any weight. When some of the defendants mocked Judge Hoffman, I didn’t hold it against them. Judge Julius Hoffman may have been as cartoonishly evil as he’s portrayed, but that is no excuse to keep him that way in the movie.
Another issue was the lack of character development. Most of the characters in this film don’t really grow throughout the movie. Again, this could be the writing, but it’s a basic storytelling concept. Other than what I mentioned, the only problems I had were personal nitpicks.
So, is the film worth watching? Well, that depends on the type of movie experience you’re looking for. If you want to watch an interesting look into one of America’s most publicized trials that creates parallels to the conversation we’re having today, then you’ll enjoy it. If you want a film with multifaceted characters who progress as the film goes on, you might want to find something else to watch.