130 minutes. Thriller/Drama. 2020.
You may know the name Aaron Sorkin from his notable array of multi-award-winning screenplays (The Social Network, Steve Jobs). Or maybe you’re already familiar with his signature fast dialogue, long monologues, and instantly quotable lines (“You can’t handle the truth!”) Whether you know his name or not, chances are you’re familiar with some of his most memorable work.
Back for his next feature after his directorial debut, Molly’s Game, this is Aaron Sorkin at his most meta. No longer hemmed in by a director, The Trial of the Chicago 7 shows him free, unleashed and at the height of his powers. Telling the true story of the extensive court case of seven peaceful protesters from three separate activist groups against the Vietnam war, The Trial of the Chicago Seven presents us with an often infuriating view into the corruption and racism of late sixties America.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 explodes onto the screen. From the first minute, we are sucked into the immersive atmosphere of Chicago, 1968. We struggle to completely adapt to all of the fluently-spoken “Sorkinese” being thrown at us from every direction, but we know one thing: we’ll be hooked until the last moment.
Perhaps the thing that would attract most audiences to this film is its fantastic ensemble cast. From Eddie Redmayne to Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong as the leaders of the party-fuelled “Yippies” group, to Mark Rylance and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the two opposing lawyers, each going to great lengths to appeal to Frank Langella’s particularly exasperating judge. No single performer fails to communicate to the audience the importance of this moment in history.
The story revolves around the “Chicago 7,” a group of people who have been clumped together to be convicted of conspiracy. Although the three parties, the “Black Panthers,” the “Yippies” and the student protest group have mostly never met each other, the court claims that together they had planned to start a riot against the city police. The single convicted member of the ‘Black Panthers’ claimed he was roped in to make the group “look scary.”
The Trial of the Chicago 7 has the unique power to recreate an important time in history, in such a way that it holds just as much relevance even 52 years later. As authentically as the long-forgotten setting is portrayed, the film seems infused with an urgent sense of what matters in 2020.
Sorkin and his cast master our emotions with the The trial of the Chicago 7. At times the empathy and despair will flow just as suddenly as the bursts of police brutality that seem only too relevant to today’s moviegoer. We are pulled right into the immense frustration of the courtroom as democracy is bought to a halt by the highest orders.
Basking in his free reign, Sorkin is at the height of his powers with The Trial of the Chicago 7. This is Courtroom Drama at its most powerful, colourful and gripping. I have to give it 4.5 stars out of 5!