WOW. Biopics and Historical Courtroom Dramas are two of my favourite smaller genres, and this one was just freaking spectacular. Incredible.
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen
Genre: History, Thriller
Runtime: 129 Minutes
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Pearl
In Chicago 1968, the Democratic Pary Convention was met with protests from activists which led to violent confrontations with the local authorities. As a result, seven of the accused ringleaders are arraigned, including Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers who was not involved in the incident. What follows is an unfair trial presided by the belligerent Judge Hoffman (No relation) and prosecuted by a reluctant but duty-bound Richard Schultz. As their pro bono lawyers face insurmountable odds, Hayden and his fellows are frustrated by the Yippies’ outrageous antics undermining their defense in defiance of the system even while Seale is denied a chance to defend himself his way. Along the way, the Chicago 7 clash in their political philosophies even as they learn they need each other in this fight. – From IMDB
With a film whose talents include, but are not limited too; Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you knew before the opening titles even came on screen that this film was going to be something special. When you get that much acting talent all in one room, it pushes everyone to deliver their A-Game and that is exactly what happened here. Absolutely outstanding performances from everyone involved, telling a story that, although set fifty years ago, is still worryingly relevant today. The slogans may be different, and the protesters may be different, but the politics are still the same, run by a man who is just as belligerent and narrow minded as Nixon.
The story is told partly through flashbacks as we see exactly what did happen on the night of the riots, and how it either corroborates or differs from the story that we are hearing being told in the courtroom. For the most part there is a really steady pace to the film, with the tension building towards a conclusion that you know is coming. But every now and then, there is a scene that is thrown in that is hard hitting and emotionally charged. The treatment of Bobby Seale for example was a shocking moment that I was not expecting and went a long way to show how far the American Justice system has NOT come in the time since this film was set. Delliger’s breakdown in the Courtroom showing how even the most even tempered man can be brought to breaking point by an unjust system. These were great moments to really impart the emotional message onto the Audience.
The little comedic moments from SBC’s character helped to alleviate some of the stress and tension in the film, giving us a respite every now and then, and playing to Cohen’s comedic strengths of course, but it was refreshing to see him take on a different kind of role than the ones I have seen him in before. His testimony on the witness stand was one my favourite parts of the film, him being completely unafraid to call out the bullshit going on and doing so in a really eloquent and concise way. Fantastic. And we also cannot downplay the emotional impact of Eddie Redmayne’s closing statement which had me tearing up, such a powerful and emotional moment.
I could go on for a while about how great this film is but the most important thing I can say is that everyone should go and watch this. Even if you think Courtroom dramas aren’t your thing. It is an outstanding film and one I am so glad I saw.
‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ is streaming on Netflix now!