Movie Review: The Trial of The Chicago 7

Movie Review: The Trial of The Chicago 7

Anastasia Martinez, A&E Staffer

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”, Aaron Sorkin’s legal drama, was released on October 16th, 2020 and can be streamed on Netflix. Aaron Sorkin takes little time in immersing audiences in the madness of 1968, exposing them to the major characters in the trial of the Chicago 7 as they prepare for their journey to protest the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention. Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) advocate for nonviolent marches, emphasizing the loss of young lives in an oppressive war. Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) take a more disorderly approach to dissent, believing that the structure can only be dismantled if it is first interrupted. John Carroll Lynch plays David Dellinger, a family man who tells his wife and son that nothing harmful can occur in Chicago, just as Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) vows that he too will be in and out quietly. 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is an engaging account of an earlier period of division and violent confrontation that is both unsettling and comforting. While the analogies aren’t exact, they are close enough to raise curiosity about what happens in society when state authority meets mainstream opposition. It is a raucous, wild situation. I highly advise audiences to read at least the general background to the trial. It reveals a good portion of the main plot elements and in my opinion, such spoilers are actually needed in this film. If you have no prior knowledge of the trial’s existence, you can find the majority of the film’s extreme amount of minor specifics to be quite complicated. If you do look up details about the trial, the film is clearly rich in details and brilliant overall. 

The film’s trials, which have both heated debate and total silence for several minutes, provide the appearance of a true courtroom. The scenes that switch back and forth between the trial and the riot events are fantastic and they help to create a tense environment. The acting of each character in their position, their movement, their voice, and even the dialogue is absolutely perfect. The film ends with Eddie Redmayne’s character reading off the names of American soldiers that have died in the Vietnam War over the course of the trial, and with anecdotes about what happened to each character after the trial. The ending is surreal and perplexing particularly in light of the film’s overall tone. This ending doesn’t make much sense given that the film’s focus is mostly about the trial process and the efforts of those accused to prove their innocence. 

Overall this film is fantastic but it has a few minor shortcomings that throw it off balance. While the film attempts to make the events interesting and easy to understand, the lack of historical context can leave some audience members confused.  For those who do understand the context, the film’s great complexity in its tale caters to both history and law lovers as being one of the best trial-based films ever made. I would rate this movie a 9.5 out of 10  It truly deserves this rating as well as its Oscar nominations.