Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin, 2020) wr. Aaron Sorkin; Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Shenkman, J.C. MacKenzie, Frank Langella
In August 1968, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, John Froines, and Bobby Seale make preparations to protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Five months later, all eight of them are arrested and charged with trying to incite a riot. John N. Mitchell, the Attorney General, appoints Tom Foran and Richard Schultz as the prosecutors, while all the defendants except Seale are represented by William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass.
Judge Julius Hoffman shows significant prejudice for the prosecution. Seale's attorney, Charles Garry, cannot attend due to illness, leading Judge Hoffman to insist that Kunstler represents all eight defendants. This insistence is rejected repeatedly by both Kunstler and Seale. Seale receives support from Fred Hampton which Judge Hoffman assumes is legal help. Abbie Hoffman openly antagonizes the court. Judge Hoffman begins removing jurors who are suspected of sympathizing with the defendants due to reported threats from the Black Panther Party and charges the defendants and their attorneys with multiple counts of contempt of court.
Henry K. Miller:
The Trial of the Chicago 7 pits Aaron Sorkin against his 1960s radical heroes
... Sorkin struggles to find his affirmative ending, going beyond the bounds of dramatic licence and narrative consistency by turning Hoffman and Hayden into characters from Sorkin’s career-making hit The West Wing (1999-2006). Hayden comes to endorse electoral politics, meaning the Democratic Party whose corruption was demonstrated at Chicago. Hoffman, meanwhile, is made to say that the institutions of government are good, just not the people occupying them – though for most of the film, as in life, Hoffman was an avowed revolutionary, seeking to inaugurate an anarchist or socialist utopia where no one knows your GPA, not to make a good system run better. Sight & Sound.
The Trial of the Chicago 7, While Timely, Exudes Movie-of-the-Week Vibes
Unfortunately, the film has relatively little of that kind of punchiness. As a director, Sorkin hasn’t yet grasped how to meld personal drama and historical sweep into a cohesive whole. Although the strong cast helps the film through some of its weaker segments, Sorkin’s attempt to bring a Spielbergian fluidity to the flashbacks to convention riot chaos often fall flat. But while The Trial of the Chicago 7 ends on something of a movie-of-the-week note, given the timing of its release as a current Department of Justice gins up spurious charges against political enemies, it nevertheless carries a certain past-is-prologue immediacy. Slant.
Trivial things I thought about: the use of three! British actors in lead roles; the fact that I vaguely recognised Cohen, but couldn't connect him with Borat; that I'm too old for 1968 to mean much to me (especially as it didn't happen in the countries I lived in before, at, or after that moment) - while most cinema-goers would be, conversely, too young.
Garry Gillard | New: 12 February, 2021 | Now: 10 March, 2021