The Trial of The Chicago 7 is a Netflix original film from writer/director Aaron Sorkin. The film is now streaming and stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong.
The film is based on the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy and more, arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The trial transfixed the nation and sparked a conversation about mayhem intended to undermine the U.S. government.
As a movie fan I’ve always been in the minority when it comes to Aaron Sorkin – in that I’ve never been a big fan of his writing style (except for The Social Network). The Newsroom bugged me because the dialog felt staged and unrealistic for some reason. People praise that HBO series as a masterpiece so it’s likely something wrong with me when it comes to that one, but what I will say today, without a shadow of a doubt, The Trial of The Chicago 7 is the best film of 2020. It is Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece – his absolute finest work as a director.
The 1969 set film showcases the BATSHIT CRAZY trial in which the US government was exposed as trying to indict seven (actually eight) people on unfounded charges of conspiracy to cause violence and mayhem during the Democratic National Convention. It’s an event I didn’t know much about, especially when it came to the trial and how truly awful the judge was. Introducing Frank Langella (Skeletor and Nixon) who manages to outdo every other villainous performance in his career with a showstealing display of absolute evil. You will NEVER see another courtroom drama with a judge this bad my friends. Langella is off the rails crazy and just watching how the courtroom reacts to his outbursts is what makes The Trial of The Chicago 7 so intense and emotional.
There’s a moment in this film where Yahya Abdul Mateen II, who is playing the leader of the Black Panther Party, is constantly berated in the most racist and vile displays of legal injustice that I’ve seen in a movie. I don’t want to ruin what may be the movie’s most powerful and unsettling moment, but when you watch it, you will know what I mean and you fill feel the hate in the pit of your stomach just stewing and building… Yahya doesn’t have many lines in the film, but what he does here even with just his eyes, is more than enough to drive the message home to the audience.
The Trial of The Chicago 7 is set in what feels like 90% courtroom, with 10% flashbacks that take us to the riots as the lawyers grill the witnesses on the stand. Sorkin was able to weave these two settings together perfectly, keeping the pace of the film flowing at all times. The movie has been hailed as the best legal drama since 12 Angry Men and I would agree to that wholeheartedly. You will not see a more timely movie this year (yes 2020 is still just as shitty as 1969 when it comes to US citizens’ having their human rights violated left and right). The performances are all magnetic and memorable, especially Sacha Baron Cohen’s portrayal of Abbie Hoffman (the leader of the flower power movement). The only other time I had been familiar with this person was in the movie Forrest Gump when Tom Hanks hits the stage to make a speech and Abbie is screaming stuff like “VIET-F***IN-NAM!” I honestly didn’t know this was a real person until I had heard about this movie being made years later.
Netflix should win Best Film of the Year at the 2021 Academy Awards with this offering. This is hands down their strongest original to date and the movie could not have come at a better time. The Trial of The Chicago 7 will upset you, move you emotionally, make you uncomfortable and hopefully by the end, it will drive you to hold your government accountable for its actions.