by Kyle Arango
If there is one genre that we desperately need more of it is the court room genre of film. They never seem to fail and even the ones that are a bit cheesy still grip you with their back and forth dialogue and matching of wits from the lawyers. On top of it all, you are trying to figure out who is telling the truth and who is lying as we watch the mystery unfold. It is a genre that has fallen off lately, but Aaron Sorkin is here to rescue us with his latest, The Trial of the Chicago 7. What a welcome refresher this film was. Full of intrigue and tension, this film hits on every level and has you locked in beginning to end.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the story surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago where riots between police and protestors broke out. The U.S. Government handpicked eight people to be the faces of these riots and use them as an example in court. When the trial came, it was not as easy as they expected. I downright loved this movie. What a return to form this was for the genre. I had never known this story to take place in history and am now completely shocked it has not been turned into a film yet. The corruption of the justice system is something that has existed since its creation, but you always question its validity until you see it up close and in this film, it is right in your face. Judges and government officials do illegal things blatantly without hesitation and somehow people have to just suck it up and move on. In reality, it is costing lives but in film, it is vastly smart and entertaining. You sit there as an audience and wait for it to come back around and getting your audience to heavily anticipate your resolution is the hallmark of a great film.
It is also worth recognizing just how relevant and timely The Trial of the Chicago 7 is. It is a story about interactions between protestors and police and their rising tensions which is what America is going through right now. Some people can look out their window currently and see it in the streets. You see it on the news everyday of violence erupting in the streets and you never know who is the one to start it. That is the story here that Aaron Sorkin tells so well. He builds up the intrigue through clever directing, but mostly because of his dialogue. Sorkin is known for his writing, and it is what carries this film. It can usually be fast and quippy, but here they use it in a much more reserved way that allows for you to listen to it as it happens and actually take it in. You can’t say that for most of his scripts, but here it’s as if he has been waiting his entire life to write a courtroom genre and it shows.
The cast of this film is also completely brilliant. Mark Rylance who is best known for winning an Oscar over Stallone, is amazing in this film as the defense lawyer. He plays a person who does everything to be professional but can’t contain it as he eventually loses his cool. Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong are electric as these hippies who are put on trial but actually have valid reasons to protest. They steal the film with powerful moments and funny interactions. One final person worth pointing out is recent Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who plays Bobby Seale, a member of the Black Panthers who is also wrongly put on trial. He gets the disadvantage of discrimination based on the color of his skin so he gets silenced quite a bit. However, when he gets to speak, he is so forceful and you just hope everything turns out well for him. Everyone else here is quite good but with such a large ensemble, it is so difficult to give everyone a chance to shine yet Sorkin makes it happen. There is also a surprise cameo that is so electric when it happens.
In a year where there haven’t been many, if any great movies to rave about, The Trial of the Chicago 7 stands above them all. It is captivating, intriguing, and full of entertainment that makes you remember what it was like to see a new good movie. If Netflix chooses, they may have a winner on its hands and if it should be their horse in the awards race, they have a strong chance at a win.