TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, THE
(director/writer: Aaron Sorkin; cinematographer: Phedon Papamichael; editor: Alan Baumgarten; music: Daniel Pemberton; cast: Eddie Redmayne (Tom Hayden), Alex Sharp (Rennie Davis), Sacha Baron Cohen (Abbie Hoffman), Jeremy Strong (Jerry Rubin), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Bobby Seale), John Carroll Lynch (David Dellinger), Mark Rylance (William Kuntsler), Frank Langella (Judge Julius Hoffman), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Richard Schuitze), Michael Keaton (Attorney General Ramsey Clark), J.C. Mackenzie (Tom Foran), Noah Robbins (Lee Weiner), Danny Flaherty (John Froines), Ben Shenkman (Leonard Weinglass), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Fred Hampton), Caitlin Fitzgerald (Agent Daphne O’Connor), John Doman (John Mitchell); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Marc Platt, Stuart Besser, Matt Jackson, Tyler Thompson; Netflix; 2020)
“It’s a superb re-creation of that historic event, in the form of a courtroom drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Aaron Sorkin (“The Newsroom”/“The Social Network”) is writer-director of this counterculture docudrama. It’s a superb re-creation of that historic event, in the form of a courtroom drama.
When the Democrat candidate for president, Senator Hubert Humphrey, says he will support the unpopular bloody Vietnam conflict, escalated by LBJ, before the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, it brings to Chicago the heads of the radical left anti-war protesters and their frustrated followers. The leaders are arrested and at the 1969 trial the following seven are tried: The Yippies Abbie Hoffman (Sasha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), the pacifist David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), the activist Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), and protesters Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty) and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins). The eight defendant was the volatile Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who was so contentious that the Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) ruled he was in contempt of court and removed him for a trial on his own.
The defense was led by the radical lawyer William Kunstler (Mark Rylance). The prosecutors were Tom Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) and Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who were aided by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark (Michael Keaton) as the star witness.
The trial was a circus, the Chicago streets were filled with noisy anti-war protesters and Chicago’s Mayor Daley’s out of control police force were banging hippie heads. There was also a National Guard presence.
The film is talky but has crisp dialogues. It feels authentic as it tells the different protest leaders stories, is well-crafted, captures the flavor of the times and does a fine job to show us the terrible turds of that time and compares them with the terrible turds of today. The film acknowledges that in bad times when the country’s democracy is threatened, drastic actions must be taken to save the country.
The trial starts with the disenfranchised yelling in the streets “The whole word is watching.” Which should remind you of today’s protests over the unjustified murder by a cop in the arrest of George Floyd.
Since the film is not a documentary, it takes creative license with the many things it brings up about that bizarre time.
REVIEWED ON 10/28/2020 GRADE: A-