In 1968 the Trial of the Chicago 7 began. Charged with inciting violence in political protests, they plead innocence – they’d barely ever met one another. As they took the stand the whole world was watching and now so should you.
The United States was at a crossroads (sounds like today huh?) Richard Nixon was vying for President and the era of JFK and Lyndon B Johnson was coming to a close. The fight back from the Democrats were, in the mind of some, just not strong enough. The US were at war in Vietnam and many wanted the troops to come home. On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, protests were staged. And they go out of hand.
Who was to blame? Some pointed fingers at the police for using unnecessary force (again – sounds familiar right?) But one very powerful finger in the US court system pointed at seven individuals. And so started the Trial of the Chicago 7.
Firstly don’t be put off by the court room setting or the dense subject matter. The Trial of the Chicago 7 rockets along through it’s run time with great pace and energy. As the trial wages on, we begin to picture the day in question and the role of our 7 men standing trial. Well, 8 actually, if you count Bobby Seale, who unjustly was lumped on trial without a lawyer by virtue of being in the Black Panther Party.
Much of that pace is down to Aaron Sorkin’s well-known quick and snappy dialogue. He doesn’t mess about. And, I’ll be honest, I’m a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin. Whether it’s The West Wing, Moneyball or the Social Network, I’ve always enjoyed his style of storytelling. You can most certainly feel elements of The West Wing here with the political subject matter.
So I guess you could say the Trial of the Chicago 7 was right in my ballpark. And it delivered. And then some. It’s engaging, characterful and also surprising. The Trial of the Chicago 7 doesn’t mess with the facts and lays it all out in front of you. It’s tough to tackle at times but needs to be said.
And with such a huge cast, you could forgive Aaron Sorkin for forgetting some but you needn’t. It’s no surprise that all of the cast are vying for Best Supporting Actor nominations. Whether it’s Sasha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon Levitt or Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, they’re all fantastic.
It’s so good that you can have Michael Keaton pop up out of nowhere mid way through the film. Now that’s star power! Credit to Aaron Sorkin for the well rounded nature of the characters on display and the balance of material. Nobody is left out in the cold and the film is better because of it.
The story may be from the late 60s but it’s as relevant today with the right to protest and the ongoing fight for equality in our world. The Trial of the Chicago 7 raises the issue but also compels you with a gripping and thought-provoking film. Character led drama at it’s most pure and best.
By Jordan Barrett
Available to stream on Netflix