Struggle For Justice

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The Trial of the Chicago 7. Mark Rylance as William Kunstler, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Cr. Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020

By Paul Hall

In 1968, the Democratic Party brought its national convention to Chicago. With the country in the middle of the Vietnam War, the city quickly became ground zero for the fight to get our troops home. Every group that was fighting to that end, and some that had their own issues, converged on the Windy City and Mayor Richard Daley was having none of it. The protests in Chicago resulted in a historic trial for the individuals who the government looked to make an example of. This story is here in The Trial of the Chicago 7, now on Netflix.

It is not new for groups to protest or demonstrate for or against a variety of issues at political conventions. For the 1968 convention, the hot button issues were Vietnam and the American involvement in the war. Groups from coast to coast came to Chicago to participate in what were expected to be peaceful protests. The result was much different and the government needed to make an example.

The story in this film is brought together by acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who is also directing this Trial based on the incidents surrounding the actual events that took place. It’s a film that feels incredibly relevant to today’s political climate.

Sorkin is gifted with an extremely talented cast to take on the variety of roles that inhabited the case, from Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden to Sacha Baron Cohen, who gives an incredibly nuanced performance as Abbie Hoffman. Redmayne and Cohen embody the movements that they are representing in the film, featuring two very different approaches with similar goals that appreciate the varied efforts of all of the defendants.

It is Sorkin’s snappy dialogue as the trial takes center stage that moves the film forward. From the outrageous rulings of Judge Julius Hoffmann (Frank Langella) to attorney William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) standing up against his honor, Sorkin allows these talented folks to shine at what they do best and they carry the film with their screen time.

I loved the cast and liked the dialogue for the most part. Although I felt the timeline as things came together could have been handled a bit differently, there is this scary relevance to today and our climate. Although the events of The Trial of the Chicago 7 are ripped from our collective past, narratives remain eerily similar today and lead one to hope that we have learned from these experiences.

Sorkin is masterful at courtroom sequences, although his best sequence in the film comes outside the courtroom with an intense dialogue exchange that brings Redmayne’s Hayden back to reality and teaches Cohen’s Hoffman just what his colleague is made of at his core.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 passes my test, and the verdict is one of the better films that 2020 has seen to this point. It is a formidable addition to our current cinematic landscape and a welcome addition to some worthy actors’ resumés.

Paul’s Grade: B+

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Rated R
Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mark Rylance
Director: Aaron Sorkin