The Radical Left

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Director: Aaron Sorkin

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

Pacifists, Hippies and Black Panthers converge on Chicago in the summer of 1968 during the Democratic National Convention and are confronted by the police and naturally riots break out. Are the police to blame? Are the protesters to blame? It is the summer of love, anti-Vietnam protests and significant social upheaval worldwide.

This is the premise of West Wing and The Social Network Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s new film in which he directed and wrote. The Trail of the Chicago 7 was originally set for a theatrical release in October 2020 but due to the coronavirus pandemic, Paramount sold the rights to the streaming giant Netflix for a cool $56 million dollars. Which explains the reason why this great film can only be found on Netflix when in fact it was best suited to a proper cinematic release.

Especially with Sorkin’s witty dialogue and his fantastic cast that he managed to assemble for The Trial of the Chicago 7.

The cast includes Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) as liberal pacifist and anti-war activist Tom Hayden, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) as defence attorney William Kunstler, Oscar nominee Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) as the non-nonsense but bigoted judge Julius Hoffman, Emmy winner Jeremy Strong (Succession) as hippie Jerry Rubin and a stand out performance by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as the fast talking defiant hippie leader Abbie Hoffman.

Also in the cast are John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther leader Bobby Seale who also got charged along with the original seven for incitement to start a riot and public disturbance.

While the first half of Aaron Sorkin’s film is confusing and needs to be anchored, the second half is brilliant as he clearly shows you what actually happens even if as a screenwriter he does get historically creative with the real facts.

Speaking of the real facts, as a viewer it is best to look up the actual story of the Trial of the Chicago 7 and the context in which the riot occurred. As Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Abbie Hofmann so eloquently says, “Everyone was in the Haymarket Tavern at the Chicago Hilton like the Sixties never happened until it came crashing through the window.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a great film, very dialogue heavy but it stands together through some superb ensemble acting especially from Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the prosecuting attorney Richard Schultz and a fine performance by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale who actually lands up getting bound and gagged in an American courtroom.

Nominated for 5 Golden Globes in 2021 including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song, Best Supporting Actor for Sacha Baron Cohen and Best Screenplay, Catch The Trial of the Chicago 7 now on Netflix. This courtroom drama gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

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