Netflix's recent offering, The Trial of the Chicago 7, revolves around the happenings of one of the most popular trials back in the 60s. Helmed by Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind hits such as The Social Network and Brad Pitt-starrer Moneyball, the star-studded film includes 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.
Famously regarded as the Chicago 7, the group was initially known as Chicago 8 before Bobby Seale, founder of the political party Black Panthers, demanded a separate trial over allegations of racism and discrimination in the court. The seven activists, who were staging protests around Chicago during the August 1968 Democratic National Convention, were charged and standing trial for inciting violence and rioting. The activists - all hailing from different walks of life - had a tough couple of months ahead of them as the trial began.
Sorkin's brilliant screenplay is strong enough to pull you in with all your sense 20 minutes into the film, so much so that the two-hour saga doesn’t seem like a trial. The Netflix original starts with an insight into the actual trial in 1968, which gives the audience an idea about the actual happenings around the infamous Vietnam-US war and events that led to the trial. The film is structured in a way that it begins and ends with monologues from three separate settings - each of them equally intriguing.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 doesn't see a dull moment. The film is gripping to an extent that one might have to pause, and go back to the previous scene in order to understand the context of the next one; a privilege that only a streaming platform can offer. It is beautifully executed, and Sorkin's direction combined with brilliant performances makes this recent Netflix venture extremely enjoyable.
Cohen plays Hoffman (the activist, not the judge), Gordon-Levitt is the noble prosecutor Schulz, Redmayne essays Hayden and all of them pull their own ounces of notoriety in their own fashion. This combination of stylistic and political brilliance makes it a film laced with equal amounts of satire, humour and emotion. Even the dialogues stay with you. Cohan's famous, "It's a revolution, Tom. We may have to hurt somebody's feelings" or Redmayne's monologue at the end of the film is bound to give one goosebumps. The film is also beautifully shot and the juxtaposition with the actual footage from the 1968 protests is timed perfectly alongside Cohen's standup gig at a bar.
All in all, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a top-notch film. The relevance of the said trial, fifty years on, is disturbing yet eye-opening. The film has managed to highlight the said aspect in all its glory. Not once, one may feel the film has been dragged.
'The whole world is watching," they kept chanting. As they should, as they should.
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