Review: History and Horror in Sorkin's "The Trial of the Chicago Seven"

Updated: Oct 24

By: JOSEPH SIMILE / STAFF WRITER


The Trial of the Chicago Seven features an incredibly compelling plot supported by an ensemble cast full of vibrant personalities, a suspense-ridden script, and award winning production.


A man of many talents, Aaron Sorkin, the movie’s director, has had a long and storied career as a playwright and screenplay writer with his legacy being furthered by The Trial of the Chicago Seven.


This imaginative, political biopic depicts the true story of the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-war protestors who led an infamous protest against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.


Sorkin wrote the screenplay in 2007 with Hollywood royalty Steven Spielberg as its intended director, however the plans were delayed after the 2007 Writers Guild strike. The project was later picked up by Sorkin in 2018 who was named as the director a year after the success of his debut film Molly’s Game.


I initially watched this movie in September of last year, and after rewatching it recently, I can say for certain that it was just as good if not better than I remembered.


As you are being introduced to the soon-to-be defendants, it becomes apparent that one is different from the rest. Bobby G. Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther, has clear intentions in Chicago which are to simply get in and get out fast. While the other defendants are hoping to lead long protests, Seale is a no-nonsense guy and he wants to represent his people authentically.


You are also introduced to Tom Hayden, the young but clearly talented activist leading the Students for a Democratic Society, and Rennie Davis, who is more reserved and quiet.


There is also the unforgettable duo of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin who, on top of being stand up comics, are also the founders of the Yippies. They are joined by David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, and John Froines who make up the rest of the defendants featured in the film.


(Photo: Netflix)

Along with the movie’s stellar cast, it has a truly unique intensity throughout the entire movie which makes you wonder not only what will happen next, but what has happened in the past.


It also has some truly great moments from some of the hilarious characters, with the comedy furthering the suspense as you wonder just how far Abbie Hoffman will push the judge and just how poorly it could influence an already biased person.


One may view the movie as an interesting and a difficult line to walk, however this film plays out with immense attention to detail and beautiful precision.


(Photo: Netflix)

Throughout the movie, there are clear allusions to the idea that this case wasn’t brought to trial solely on its merits. Schultz, the man asked to bring the case to court, is clearly not enthusiastic and doesn’t believe the crimes were worth prosecuting. This theme follows throughout the entire trial, as Judge Hoffman regularly rules in favor of the prosecution and portrays a harsh and hateful attitude towards the defense.


The film depicts flashbacks throughout the trial of the events that occurred during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, revealing to the audience the events of the protest only as they unfold in the trial, thus capturing both the protest and the absolute abuse of citizens by the police.


The camerawork, effects, and editing are all fantastic in these scenes, though a bit gory. You can hear the cracking and breaking of bones when the police batons connect with the protestors, you can see the blood shooting out of the wounds when people are struck.


This movie was simply a masterpiece and Aaron Sorkin’s experience with biopics shined through with this piece, illustrating a kind of macabre beauty. It has been nominated for a plethora of awards, including winning.


Despite most of it taking place in a courtroom, it has the general intensity of a war movie. One could not recommend this movie enough, and has many qualities associated with becoming one’s favorite film.


The characters are all cast incredibly well, not just for the personalities they portray but also in terms of their uncanny resemblance to their real life counterparts.


If you have a couple of hours to spare and want to be on the edge of your seat the entire time, while also getting some good laughs and consuming some great historical content, The Trial of the Chicago Seven is the movie for you.


(Photo: Netflix)

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