With it being one of the only true classic “Hollywood” style blockbusters coming out in 2020, The Trial of the Chicago 7 needs fairly little introduction at this point. It took me far too long to get round to it in all honesty, but let’s see if it was worth the wait.
Set in 1968, this is the real life story of a peaceful anti-Vietnam War protest that went awry and several so-called ‘leaders’ of the insurrection were arrested. The film itself is partly a courtroom drama and partly a historical account of true events, though a lot of the dialogue is more than likely fictional (but it’s pretty great dialogue at that.) We are taken on a whistle stop tour of the exceedingly long trial, complete with an explanation of the ins and outs, who each of the defendants were, and the drama that evolved throughout their time in the courtroom. In short, it’s a re-telling and an education of something that really happened and the absurd (and often abhorrent) events that surrounded it.
Let it be known: no one writes dialogue like Aaron Sorkin. I was absolutely not surprised when he won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay last month because it’s a simple fact that he’s the best at coming up with rhythmic and realistic scripts. Of course I’m biased because I love The West Wing so much, but I maintain that he can do no wrong.
It seems like an obvious thing to mention the cast but… What a cast. I can’t even choose who the best was for me, so here’s my shortlist: Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Mark Rylance, Sacha Baron Cohen. All three of them ARE their characters and play them with such gusto. In fact, Mark Rylance is completely underrated in everything he ever does, probably because he looks so humdrum and normal, so I’d like to give him a special shoutout here because I promise you, he’s wonderful in this movie. (Eddie Redmayne can get in the bin though. I’ve had enough of him for the rest of my life.)
Look, I’m a sucker for a courtroom drama. And I’m obsessed with US politics. So yes, I’ll say it again: I’m incredibly biased because this movie indisputably plays to my interests. But you have to admit that this is a pretty brilliant script, and the way scenes cut to flashbacks instead of keeping all of the action in the courtroom is a masterful and inspired way of telling this story. It could have been the same old court case shit, but Sorkin made sure that wasn’t the case. If he did, it wouldn’t be Sorkin.
So many people have negatively labelled this movie “Oscar bait”, but I’m 100% sure this writer/director didn’t write it to be and I’m not sorry to say that I don’t care even if he did. It’s a film that holds cultural and historical significance and shows a quite complicated story in a palatable way. The topics that it covers are essential to know and that’s all I’ll say on those boring bait claims.
It’s not my favourite movie that I’ve seen this year, but it’s pretty damn good. Well shot, great soundtrack, immaculately performed.
Haters gon’ hate.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
TQR Category Ratings:
Costume & Set Design:
Overall Rating: ½