George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
2020 Releases Ranked-HERE
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a 2020 American historical legal drama written and directed by critically acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin and stars an ensemble cast that includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong. The story follows the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 was probably my most anticipated movie for the fall of this year, now that Dune has unfortunately rescheduled to a later date, and for good reason, this is by far one of the best releases this year. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is exactly as advertised, its a giant, slightly giddy burst of earnest theatricality, that's loaded with a formidable ensemble cast that chews on every inch of the scenery whilst also having a storyline that's both incredibly interesting as well as also being historically accurate (for the most part). This isn't the conventional film many thought it would be once it was first announced, its a lot deeper than that. The film doesn't depict much of the riots in question, however, it does delve deeper into the courtroom and the social and racial discrimination that occurred in the subsequent trial whilst also mixing it with the key moments that lead to the "7" being arrested. The film depicts the highs and lows the "7" faced once put on trial and the immoral activity that occurred during it. Without spoiling anything I will say that, even though having read the production notes Netflix gave me for this, it did still come as a shock to me watching how the trial was handled and just how powerful many of the scenes were to watch.
Now, going into the film I must say that the opening 10 minutes is possibly one of the best openings of any of the films I've watched thus far this year. You get all the information you need, who the characters are and their motivations for wanting to protest the war in Vietnam and all proved to be incredibly fascinating to watch as the camera smoothly transitions from scene to scene so effortlessly throughout. Straight from the get go Aaron Sorkin (known for his incredible writing work on "The Social Network" and "A Few Good Men") hits the dialogue perfectly. It's filled with powerful motivation that allows the audience to get behind the protest from the get go as many, including myself, would agree with what they are protesting about and disagree with the treatment they received because of it.
Once the film transitioned into a courtroom drama, it really piqued my interest. Whilst the opening scenes before the title card was great, the tension the audience experiences when watching them on trial was miraculous and really began to pull me further into the narrative. However, this film isn't exactly 100% historically accurate at portraying what happened. Aaron Sorkin is a director that is known to take a few liberties with his scripts and style them to fit Hollywood a bit more and this does include overemphasising some scenes. Take his work on "The Social Network", "Moneyball" and "Steve Jobs", all of these were based on a historical factor (they did really happen) but he did slightly change a few things during the runtime. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is no different and does end on a note that could be considered purely for feel good purposes and sadly this will dampen others viewings, but for me, despite its somewhat cheesy feel, it worked incredibly well and never downgrade my experience with it.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 couldn't have come at a more integral time, the recent protests around the world have had a huge impact on the way we look at how protests are dealt with and how the public reacts, and that's exactly what this film depicts. Performance-wise every single member of the cast did an outstanding job. Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman offered the perfect amount of humour, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden was utterly brilliant, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale was outstanding and Mark Rylance as William Kunstler also gave a brilliant performance as the lawyer trying to protect the "7" and completely stunned me with his acting. Alongside them, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Ben Shenkman, J.C. MacKenzie and Frank Langella also gave brilliant performances and all added to the film perfectly, but for me, like in many other films, Joseph Gordon-Levitt really stood out. His screen presence was incredible as his character really made him stand out in the sympathetic "bad guy that's not actually bad" role and that is what capped off what undoubtedly was the best acted film I've seen this year.
Once the film finally begins to conclude, you can genuinely feel the tension, your heart beats alongside the powerful score as the scene transitions to show how the riots started. For me, watching this via a Netflix screener, whilst at college, The Trial of the Chicago 7 truly amazed me. Go into this film knowing nothing, go into it completely blind and honestly, you'll be amazed at how incredibly powerful this film is. How outstanding the acting is and just how invested you become in the storyline from the start. Earlier on I mentioned that the ending will put some people off but for me, it could never. The ending was powerful, it was meaningful and most importantly it was absolutely outstanding to watch. Aaron Sorkin has always been knows for his incredible scripts but now, now he will be known for writing and directing one of the best, most powerful films of the last decade. Very rarely do I call a film perfect but The Trial of the Chicago 7 comes so close to being just that, I loved it and I can't wait to rewatch this when it finally gets released this Friday.
"THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!"