The Chicago 7 review test: a triumph from start to finish

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The Chicago 7 trial Review: Still from the movie. (courtesy Youtube)

To emit: Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mark Rylance and Frank Langella

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Classification: 4 stars (out of 5)

Conceived nearly a decade before Donald Trump moved into the White House, The Chicago 7 trial it is set at a specific time, place and political context. Therefore, the film must first be evaluated for factual accuracy and thematic acuity. Once that’s out of the way, the perennial resonance of the story kicks in. It is unmistakable and urgent. The Chicago 7 trial, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, recreates a particularly murky sideshow in which, like the titular group of anti-war protesters brought to court by the US government to be an example, the entire nation he was on trial. .

Aaron Sorkin’s excellent screenplay tweaks the factual details to sharpen the courtroom drama that crippled America in the late 1960s. Neither the essence nor the purpose of the recount diminishes one bit in the deal. Sorkin’s writing is brilliant. His directing skills are a bit lower, but good enough that he doesn’t let the script lose its innate weight.

The film’s focus on an act of political resistance at a time when the power of the state, concentrated in its executive machinery, police force and judicial system, was unleashed in an unseemly and arrogant way, has a universal tone. The horrific results of suppressing dissent are as close to the core today as they were when the United States was transitioning from Lyndon B. Johnson to Richard Nixon.

Fifty years later, the crisis has only gotten worse. The world has been nearly invaded by megalomaniacs who know no better than to trample on decorum, grind honesty to dust, and, as a ploy to deflect blame for their abject failures, do whatever they can to intimidate those who oppose it. injustice and abuse of systemic power.

While loading the always-relevant message is easy for the film, what it does The Chicago 7 trial Especially phenomenal is the cast of a song. The film begins immediately, immersing itself in the essence of the drama and featuring the ‘Chicago Seven’ in quick succession as they prepare for a planned anti-war protest rally. The emphasis shifts from then to the battle in the courtroom and its fascinating aftermath.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (as the national chairman of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale, the eighth defendant who is separated from trial but not before being subjected to unspeakable indignities), Sacha Baron Cohen (as the defiant and irreverent founder of Yippies, Abbie Hoffman), Eddie Redmayne (as Student for a Democratic Society leader Tom Hayden, who, with the help of a diligent associate, keeps track of the American soldiers who die in Vietnam), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as prosecutor Richard Schultz), Mark Rylance (as defense attorney William Kunstler) and Frank Langella (as Judge Julius Hoffman) deliver electrifying performances.

In fact, in The Chicago 7 trial, each and every actor has a chance to shine, including Michael Keaton, who only has two scenes playing LBJ Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Faced with questions from the Gordon-Levitt federal prosecutor, Keaton’s former attorney general opts for piercing and embarrassing pauses that temporarily but significantly alter the pace of the courtroom war of words.

The writing, as already noted, is brilliant. Sorkin began working on the script in 2007. It’s no wonder the script feels so finely balanced, so flawless, so full of revealing minutiae. The inevitable chaos of the 1968 riots is captured in scenes (which are strewn throughout the film) that lead to a violent confrontation between Chicago police and anti-Vietnam War protesters during a Democratic National Convention.

But none of the chaos that erupts around the venue in late August 1968 is fully reflected in the rat-to-rat conversations between the key players or their lively exchanges with Schultz and Judge Hoffman. Men accused of crossing state lines and fomenting trouble are well aware that they are fighting a losing battle, but they are always on the alert. Even in the face of serious provocation, they are perfectly prepared when they verbalize their central ideas, either to each other (as Hoffman and Hayden do in an animated way more than once) or to the federal prosecutor and the judge.

One is left with the lingering feeling that a little more astray in the words that flow from the defendants’ mouths when faced with a blatantly biased judge and an unwavering defense attorney, hell-bent on sticking to his mandate, could have done better. He captured the alarm, outrage, and disdain of the men in the dock.

The actors, of course, convey it all with astonishing poise, but the lines they speak are sometimes text-free. Now that I think about it, that makes the performances all the more commendable. It takes some effort for the actors to convey the impression that the dialogue they are delivering are spontaneous statements rather than lines that have emerged from years of writing by an expert screenwriter. The Chicago 7 trial he retains his wit while, thanks to the astonishing spontaneity of the actors, he radiates an air of sustained free spirit.

The vigor and intensity of Cohen, Redmayne, Jeremy Strong (playing Youth International Party co-founder Jerry Rubin), Rylance, and Gordon-Levitt pump up the theatricality and the ever-so-mild pauses to breathe that work wonders and inject credibility into the performances. key clashes and discussions.

Counterculture activists brought before Judge Hoffman don’t have much of a chance. “The whole world is watching”: that is a refrain that runs through the film. But do men in positions of power really care about niceties? Obviously they don’t. In bringing that point home, The Trial of the Chicago 7 does an excellent job of depicting how democracy is in constant danger of being manipulated and maimed to crush dissent, especially when power falls into the wrong hands.

Aaron Sorkin turns his vibrant rendition of a 1969 seven-month legal joust, one of the most infamous trials in American judicial history, into a commentary that transcends its specific context and speaks to all of us, across decades and years. geographies. From beginning to end The Chicago 7 trial it is a triumph.

(The Chicago 7 trial airs on Netflix from October 16)

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