Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

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Aaron Sorkin’s latest is a timely, sharp look at the fallout from the 1968 Democratic National Convention riot in Chicago, told through a compelling courtroom drama elevated by masterful writing and stunning performances.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows seven men charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot by the federal government, charges that come out of a police encounter at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Roped into the suspiciously political proceedings is a Black man from the Black Panthers (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Of the core seven, Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, and John Carroll Lynch are notable for their impact on the story and, in the case of Cohen especially, eye-opening performances. Sorkin’s ability to transport viewers into the culture and politics of the time, from the very beginning of his projects, it what makes him one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time. His signature fast story development and witty dialogue is on full display, highlighting the corruption at the center of the controversial proceedings that lasted 6 months. Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Frank Langella all deliver top-notch performances that speak to the seriousness and gravity of the subject at hand.

It is hard not to draw parallels between the events of the film and current societal issues within the United States today, namely systemic racism and suppression of free speech/the right to protest. While a different time indeed, 1969’s trial showcases a number of themes recognizable in 2020. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is certainly not Sorkin’s best, but it is once again an impactful narrative that is sure to spark intense discussions, as it should. Abdul-Mateen II’s embodiment of his character and representation of a Black man not afforded the same rights as his white counterparts is, in my opinion, a star-making performance for an already talented actor that is sure to get award discussion. His in-film competition may certainly be Cohen, however, as his sarcastic, free-willed, instigating character takes what we have come to expect from the actor and takes it to another level. 

I am of the firm belief that there is no better storyteller than Sorkin when it comes to social commentary, an opinion that is only further given weight by The Trial of the Chicago 7.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Is available to stream today on Netflix.

Rating: 4/5

Photo from The New York Times

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