The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin, 2020, USA/UK/India)

                The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the second feature directed by Aaron Sorkin, after 2017’s Molly’s Game. The film tells the story of the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-war protesters who were charged in the wake of the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film is a true ensemble pic, featuring high-profile names including Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and others including Michael Keaton in smaller roles. The film feels curiously old school in its approach to the material, and it is not surprising that Steven Spielberg was once attached to direct the project.

               Starting with a snappy opening montage, the film relays the events of the trial through courtroom reenactments and flashbacks to the riot. The film assumes that the viewer has a decent amount of familiarity with the political and historical context of the time, as well as the various figures presented in the film. Aaron Sorkin is of course known for his dialogue, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 has no shortage of it. The film is very dialogue heavy, which is anticipated for a courtroom drama. And while the trial might seem over-the-top, in reality the courtroom drama was truly stranger than fiction. There is a theatricality to the proceedings that is to be expected.

               The performances are a mixed bag. While the big accolades seem to be going to Sacha Baron Cohen for his performance as Abbie Hoffman, Jeremy Strong’s performance as Jerry Rubin is stronger. Likewise, character actor John Carroll Lynch’s turn as David Dellinger is impressive. Eddie Redmayne’s turn as the boy-next-door Tom Hayden, head of the SDS, is passable. Mark Kermode described Chicago 7 as “wiggy”, and I must agree with that assessment. Thankfully Sacha Baron Cohen’s wig works for the most part. Worth watching.


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