“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” directed by Aaron Sorkin (Social Network), details the events of the famous trial in 1969, where eight, later seven, people in the U.S. were charged for inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The trial in the film is told primarily through the eyes of the defendants Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and their lawyer William Kunstler (Mark Rylance). It is no surprise that this movie is among seven other films nominated for Best Picture for the 93rd Academy Awards, with great writing and pacing throughout. The film also has very clear parallels of our present day and the past, the film having premiered in October 2020 amid national conversations about racial justice following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
One interesting thing to point out that others might not have since this movie came out is how it sits next to the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” In both, the same Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party is shown, and we even see the leader Fred Hampton multiple times. This film would be interesting to watch side-by-side, almost like a sequel because it gives a bigger scope of what happened in this city during such a short amount of time.
Antagonist: The best thing this film does is give a very unlikeable and easy to hate antagonist that we want to see our protagonists overcome. In this film, that is the judge, played by Frank Langella, who does a fantastic job. His conflict with the defendants and their lawyers drives this film and helps us empathize more with our heroes.
Build-up and Climax: This film walks a fine line between show-don’t-tell, but it does it in a wonderful way. As it is a courtroom film, many of the events leading up to the riot that brought the characters there are told to the audience instead of shown. Brief flashbacks do occur, with the witnesses on the stand telling their side of the story, drawing you in as more conflict appears. This buildup of tension is only improved by the climax of the film, shown with a flashback sequence while banter between two characters occurs. This scene is like a violent release of tension, where everyone is at the end of their rope and the climax really explodes and makes the buildup worth it.
Characters: The film has a lot of characters and right from the first minute we are introduced to the Chicago seven organizing the protest in Chicago, and then shortly after the prosecuting team discussing how to put them in jail. It is a lot of characters very quickly, and by the end we only know about half of who we are introduced to. This is only a minor point however, as it’s better to know a few characters well than all the characters very little.
This movie is a contender for Best Picture this year and it comes as no surprise. With its controversial subject matter, great line delivery and sharp pacing, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” didn’t hold back at all. Only time will tell if they win.
Rating: Raise Your Expectations