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The Trial of the Chicago 7

2020  130 MN




The Trial of the Chicago 7 on IMDb
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Aaron Sorkin
  Director




What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with police and the National Guard. The organizers of the protest — including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale — were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.

 Release Date

September 25, 2020

 Runtime

2h10m (130 min)

 Budget

$ 35,000,000

 Revenue

$ 104,048


 Top Billed Cast

 Sacha Baron Cohen
 Abbie Hoffman
 Eddie Redmayne
 Tom Hayden
 Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
 Bobby Seale
 Jeremy Strong
 Jerry Rubin
 Mark Rylance
 William Kunstler
 Joseph Gordon-Levitt
 Richard Schultz


 Written by

Aaron Sorkin Screenplay

 Tagline

In 1968, democracy refused to back down.

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 Cast

Sacha Baron Cohen
  Abbie Hoffman
Eddie Redmayne
  Tom Hayden
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
  Bobby Seale
Jeremy Strong
  Jerry Rubin
Mark Rylance
  William Kunstler
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  Richard Schultz
Michael Keaton
  Ramsey Clark
Frank Langella
  Judge Julius Hoffman
John Carroll Lynch
  David Dellinger
Alex Sharp
  Rennie Davis
John Doman
  John Mitchell
Ben Shenkman
  Leonard Weinglass
J. C. MacKenzie
  Thomas Foran
Danny Flaherty
  John Froines
Noah Robbins
  Lee Weiner
Kelvin Harrison Jr.
  Fred Hampton
Caitlin Fitzgerald
  Agent Daphne O'Connor
Alice Kremelberg
  Bernadine
Wayne Duvall
  Detective Deluca
Damian Young
  Howard Ackerman
C.J. Wilson
  Sergeant Scott Scibelli
Brady Jenness
  David Dellinger's Son
Meghan Rafferty
  Mrs. Dellinger
Juliette Angelo
  Juror 6
Brendan Burke
  Bailiff
Tah von Allmen
  Mrs. Winter
Alan Metoskie
  Allen Ginsberg
John Gawlik
  Policeman That Arrests Jerry
Kevin O'Donnell
  Bar Patron 1
Gavin Haag
  Bar Patron 2
Tiffany Denise Hobbs
  Sondra
Steve Routman
  David Stahl
Larry Mitchell
  Detective Frapoly
James Pravasilis
  Egg Throwing Crowd Member
Michelle Hurst
  Housekeeper Jane
Tony Lawry
  Man
Kathleen Garrett
  Mitchell's Secretary
Christian Litke
  Officer 2
Max Adler
  Officer Wojohowski
Shawn Parsons
  Policeman in Haymarket
Julian Hester
  Policeman on Bullhorn
Kate Miller
  Reporter Majorie
Edward Fletcher
  Reporter Sy
Marco Lama
  Someone in the Crowd
Ben Kass
  Reporter 7
Ed Flynn
  Reporter 9
David Fierro
  Bailiff 2
Michael A. Dean
  Carl Oglesby

 Crew


Phedon Papamichael
  Cinematography
Walter F. Parkes
  Executive Producer
Sacha Baron Cohen
  Associate Producer
Laurie MacDonald
  Executive Producer
Alan Baumgarten
  Editor
Aaron Sorkin
  Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin
  Director
Shane Valentino
  Production Design
Susan Lyall
  Costume Designer
Marc Butan
  Executive Producer
Marc Platt
  Producer
Anthony Katagas
  Executive Producer
Tyler Thompson
  Producer
Daniel Pemberton
  Original Music Composer
Andrew Baseman
  Set Decoration
Vincent Grashaw
  Co-Executive Producer
Matt Jackson
  Producer
Kristie Macosko Krieger
  Executive Producer
Nathan J. Busch II
  Hair Department Head
Louise McCarthy
  Makeup Department Head
Shivani Rawat
  Executive Producer


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Aaron Sorkin has been around for quite some time. A Few Good Men, Moneyball, Steve Jobs, and arguably one of the best movies of the last decade, The Social Network, all have one thing in common: Sorkin as a screenwriter, but not as the director. Molly's Game was Sorkin's directorial debut, which makes The Trial of the Chicago 7 only his second time in the director's chair. I've either loved or liked every film from him, so obviously, my expectations were already high enough solely due to his presence. However, with the announcement of such a stellar cast, it's impossible not to expect one of the best movies of the year to come out of this project...

Expectations fulfilled. This is, in fact, one of 2020's very best films, without the shadow of a doubt. Based on real events, the movie quickly jumps to the main point of action: the trial. Only twenty minutes in, the viewer is already inside the famous courtroom where the expected and the unexpected occur simultaneously. Sorkin's employs a narrative structure that keeps me captivated until the final credits start to roll. The actions that led to this court case are demonstrated throughout the same instead of being shown through a linear timeline, which would reduce the trial's value. It's the main reason why such a simple premise turns into a phenomenal adaptation of the historical event.

I couldn't take my eyes off-screen for a single second or lose one of the many incredible dialogues. Every conversation, every argument, every objection, overrule, or "motion denied" is transmitted to the viewer in an exceptionally captivating manner. It's one of those movies where the "action" belongs to words instead of fists. I felt tremendously invested in the trial. It never loses a gram of interest, it's full-on exciting all the time. I desperately wanted to find out the result of the case (I didn't possess knowledge of the real story, but I'll address this further down). I really wanted to witness the events that put the defendants in their respective positions. I strongly desired to see the end of the situation.

As soon as the film ends, I felt the urge to immediately research everything about the true story. I spent close to forty-five minutes reading many articles about the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the riots, the presidential nominees... everything. This is one of the most important criteria I have to define how successful a historical flick truly is: how much does it compel me to research everything about it. The Trial of the Chicago 7 convinces me to study the real events with significant impact. From what I've read, Sorkin changes a few details timeline-wise (something pretty common in this type of movie), but overall, it's a pretty accurate, realistic adaptation.

Technically, every component is remarkable, as expected from a Netflix-Sorkin partnership. However, the score plays a special part since its volume in crescendo elevates several escalating situations, leaving me at the edge of my couch, biting my nails. It's a fantastic achievement from Daniel Pemberton, who also scored Birds of Prey and Enola Holmes this year. Additionally, this might not be a one-location film, but Sorkin keeps the camera so focused on the courtroom that it feels like the audience is stuck in there with the defendants.

Besides Sorkin's screenplay, the cast obviously plays a massive role. Just like I mentioned above, this is a movie where the "action" is played out through words. Inside the courtroom, there are constant arguments, countless contempts of court, a voir dire (it doesn't hurt to google courtroom terminology before the film), and so much more that leads the judge to make questionable decisions based on shocking evidence. Every actor is absolutely outstanding, I was able to feel everything during that trial, but I do have four standouts.

Sacha Baron Cohen (Abbie Hoffman) shares the laugh spotlight with Jeremy Strong (Jerry Rubin), but he ends up being the ultimate comic relief. His delivery and timing are pure gold. I can't deny that I was surprised by his performance since I've only seen him in Borat. He's extremely funny, but don't be mistaken by my words: Abbie proves to be one of the most essential defendants in the trial, offering a memorable testimony and demonstrating his real purpose. Eddie Redmayne brings his Oscar-winner face to the game by interpreting Tom Hayden. A vital character that lets the viewer know that while they might not all be completely guilty, they're not all exactly innocent as well. Hayden's final speech is one of Redmayne's best scenes of his career.

Mark Rylance plays the role of the public, portraying the defendants' lawyer, William Kunstler. He shares the viewer's frustration with the judge's decisions but never gives up, trying to bring justice to the case. If I had to bet on an actor to get awards buzz by the end of the year, it would be Rylance due to his powerful display. My last standout is Frank Langella as the judge Julius Hoffman. I believe a lot of people will give credit to every actor for portraying characters they love, but most will forget the actor that interprets the character everyone hates. Langella deserves all of the praise in the world for making me despise completely such an unfair, racist, unqualified judge. His performance is simply extraordinary.

These are my four standouts, but the entire cast is phenomenal. I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get to see more from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Bobby Seale), but after researching Bobby's involvement in this story, I understand his lack of relevance to the main narrative. He plays more of a modern parallel to the 60s in the sense that the judge heavily discriminates against him during the trial, transmitting a message that humanity's behavior may have evolved regarding racism, but there's still a long way to go. A final shoutout to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is also excellent as Richard Schultz.

I only have one issue. In terms of entertainment, the viewer entering the main stage after only twenty minutes is a bold yet efficient move. However, the introduction to the characters and the story itself goes by so fast that I could only understand who's who and their purpose during the trial. Sorkin assumes people know everything about who these characters are, what they did, and where the narrative is driving towards, skipping through dozens of details that (mostly) non-American audiences will struggle to understand in time. Sorkin could have given these characters more depth initially, offering the viewer time to get familiar with their names and organizations.

All in all, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year, probably the best at the date of this review. Aaron Sorkin's narrative structure and the brilliant cast are the two main reasons why this film succeeds so well. Sorkin's screenplay is organized in a way that keeps the viewer astonishingly captivated throughout the entire runtime by following a nonlinear structure. Maintaining the focus on a single location is an exceptional decision for a movie where words are the action of the story. Inside the courtroom is where every fascinating argument ensues, never losing steam until the very end. It's also a lot funnier than I expected. Regarding the cast, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, and Frank Langella are my standouts, but every actor delivers outstanding performances. Daniel Pemberton's score shines in an overall very well-produced film. The first twenty minutes fly by in favor of entertainment by quickly placing the viewer inside the courtroom, but it's so rushed that it makes it difficult for the audience to remember everyone's names and purposes. Assuming everyone knows the true story and the people involved is a risky move, especially for non-Americans. Nevertheless, this minor issue doesn't affect an otherwise flawless movie. Obviously, I strongly recommend it! Maybe reading a bit about the real events beforehand will help the eventual viewing, but don't read too much due to the usual spoilers.

Rating: A



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