The Trial of the Chicago 7
I had been hesitant to see this film since it came out because I thought it was going to be one of those movies that was boring and typically portrayed black people as victims/slaves, because I’m honestly tired of all that but then someone convinced me otherwise and well it was so damn worth it.
An historical legal drama, this movie takes us through the trial of activists; Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner and John Froines, after the American government charged them with conspiracy to incite violence across state lines at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 1968.
Originally called the Chicago 8 because Bobby Seale, the national leader of the Black Panther party was one of the defendants but was eventually given a mistrial during the trial.
In 1968, the DNC is about to take place in Chicago where the presidential candidate for the next election was going to be nominated. The President at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson had a reputation for increasing the number of soldiers that were sent to Vietnam to fight in the war and this obviously did not sit well with different groups of activists who felt the war was highly unnecessary and the government was only just sending soldiers to die. In response to this, they decided to stage a demonstration at the DNC to protest the war. As is the case with most protests in the 60s, there were clashes with the protesters and the police and the leaders of the protests (Chicago 8) were arrested. The trial that followed became very widespread and was closely watched by Americans at the time.
One of the reasons I liked this movie was Sacha Baron Cohen who played Abbie Hoffman, one of the defendants. If you’ve seen The Dictator, then you know who he is. Sacha is one of those fantastic actors who doesn’t have to try so hard to fit into character. He plays the role so well that you assume that the real Abbie Hoffman was exactly like that. With Sacha, you expect drama, and I can assure you that he brought drama.
Frank Langella plays Judge Julius Hoffman, the Judge of the case. He plays a very biased, unqualified, government-siding and subtly racist judge and I was genuinely in awe of his performance. I was more in awe at the thought of the real Justice Hoffman; whom other attorneys deemed unqualified; having to preside over such a huge case. (If you’re thinking what I’m thinking then you’d think that the government specifically chose him for the case).
Eddie Redmayne plays Tom Hayden, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Bobby Seale, Mark Rylance plays William Kunstler (the defense lawyer) and Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Richard Schultz (the prosecutor).
I really loved this film and it’s already been nominated for several awards and has won the Golden Globe award for Best Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin on just his second directorial debut created an astonishing masterpiece. Filled with so much courtroom drama that I don’t think even Suits gave us, this movie draws you in that you don’t realize it’s over 2-hours long. I loved the dialogue and how the cast interacted like they had known each other a long time. If there was ever an award for Best Cast, this would be the team to win it. The character development was also absolutely beautiful to watch.
My favorite part of the movie was when the judge asked Tom Hayden to make a statement before he read out his sentencing and then he proceeded to read out 4,752 names of the soldiers that had died in the war up until that time, after the judge specifically told him to make his statement brief. It was a “spit in the face” at the judge and it was well-deserved.
Available on Netflix.
I’ll rate this movie 9 out of 10.