Friday, 16 October 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Movie Review)

Aaron Sorkin returns to the director's chair for The Trial of the Chicago 7, the highly-anticipated legal drama he'd written all the way back in 2007. The movie is based on the true-life story of the men that were prosecuted for inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Already considered by some to be a top contender at next year's Academy Awards, the movie has just landed on Netflix and I'm here to tell you whether or not it is worthy of all that praise.

The movie features an ensemble that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton and others. Its events take place after the 1968 riot between Anti-Vietnam War protesters and the Chicago police, chronicling what took place during the trial of the eight men accused of inciting that riot, while taking certain liberties for dramatization purposes of course. And like any good courtroom drama, we get to see events unfold from both sides of the case.

The prosecution is being led by Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man introduced as one of the best prosecutors of the time. And he appears to have the full backing of the U.S. Government. From the very first day of trial, it is clear that the appointed judge, Julius Hoffman (Frank Langelia), has nothing but disdain for all eight defendants. Except one cannot deny the noble cause behind the actions of the men. So it is left to their defense counsel, led by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance), to convince the jury of their collective innocence.

Expectations were high heading into The Trial of the Chicago 7, and I am pleased to report that the film did not disappoint. The movie is not only a top contender at next year's Oscars, it is the current frontrunner in several categories. Aaron Sorkin once again proves his mastery for crafting incredible dialogue that is funny when it needs to be, but never anything other than real or heartfelt.

The movie is carried along by strong performances across the board, but it was Sacha Baron Cohen that gave the most showstopping performance of the bunch. He embodied the free-spirited nature of Abbie Hoffman, while still bringing to life his undeniable intelligence. Mark Rylance is also worthy of an honorable mention, for his laidback delivery and frustrated outbursts.

There's an undeniable timeliness about The Trial of the Chicago 7 that can be related to much of what is happening in the world today. Whether it is in the ongoing #EndPoliceBrutality protests being held by Nigerians all over the world, or in the #BlackLivesMatter movement that inspired them.

It is our right to protest any perceived injustices in our collective societies, whether they are being perpetrated by government-run institutions like the police, or by the government itself through unfair decisions, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 serves as a celebration of that right, and beautifully so.

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