Acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin is back behind the camera following the success of his directorial debut Molly’s Game, with a rousing courtroom drama that is yet another feather in his cap.
A Netflix original movie, The Trial Of The Chicago 7 follows a group of anti-Vietnam War protestors titled ‘The Chicago Seven’ as they are charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots. What follows is one of the most notorious trials in America’s recent history, something which as Sorkin proves is not only a fascinating story to tell, but one which also feels crucially timely.
Although the movie is set in the sixties, complete with boundless tie-dye and plenty of hair, the themes and issues it highlights are both contemporary and incredibly relevant. As pointed out to us by the characters, this is a show trial and one that is politically motivated. The aim isn’t justice as it should be, instead the attorney general is using the trial in an attempt to fight back against the cultural movement by putting some of its leaders behind bars, whilst also giving his predecessor the middle finger.
Thus the way politicians use and abuse the people in their pitiful arguments is emphasised, whilst Sorkin also explores America’s strange relationship with free speech.
We are once again reminded that despite America being supposedly a place which is proud of being a liberal land, the political elite regularly suppress the free speech of the people.
This is highlighted in the movie time and time again, particularly with the treatment of Black Panther Bobby Seale who is not only denied legal representation, but is repeatedly told to keep quiet in court, to the point he is bound and gagged.
These scenes are shocking to watch not only because what is happening to Bobby is horrific, but the racism, police brutality and violence against black people on show in the film is all too familiar, making it even more nauseating.
It has to be said Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s is fantastic as Bobby, balancing both the fierce and vulnerable side of the character. In fact when he is not on screen, he is missed.
Abdul-Mateen II is only one member of a phenomenal ensemble cast though, which is a seemingly endless list of great actors giving it their all.
Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Frank Langella amongst others all thrive off Sorkin’s excellent script and direction, delivering great performances which set the courtroom alight.
And if that cast wasn’t enough, about two-thirds of the way in the one and only Michael Keaton also pops up for some of the best scenes of the movie.
In another director or writer’s hands, The Trial Of The Chicago 7 might have ended up just being an actors’ showcase, but with Sorkin helming the film it most certainly isn’t.
His script is quick witted, intelligent and full of the sharp dialogue and quips you would expect from Sorkin, and whilst it won’t convert those who usually don’t enjoy his work, fans will relish every second of it.
He mensures the drama is not only compelling but entertaining too, with lines such as “this is the Academy Awards of protests and as far as I’m concerned, it’s an honour just to be nominated” delivering laugh-out-loud moments.
Sorkin perfectly captures the many flaws of both America’s legal and political systems, and the chaos of this trial, with the injustices being repeatedly highlighted.
This means you too will be applauding during the film’s triumphant climatic scene.
Although not all of it lands on its feet, The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is a must watch not only because it’s an uproarious and gripping drama, but it is timeless, making it even more striking in this troubled year.
The Trial of Chicago 7 is out on Netflix