Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Movie Review

A fascinating period of time, molded into an entertaining movie.
Aaron Sorkin has a way with words. I love his dialogue which always has this natural rhythm and tempo in line with the importance of what the characters have to say, that the audience just falls in sync. I was expecting it to be enlightening, but the suspense and tension is also notable and builds to a very captivating experience.   2020

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin

Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jeremy Strong

At the beginning of the movie, I was mostly struck by how similar the protests, the brutality by the police and the inhumane treatment of Blacks are to today’s world. It’s numbing how tiring this fight is for those who have been at it their whole lives. But this isn’t just a lesson in politics, it’s an engaging movie. With each passing scene, I was drawn into this particular fight and these characters.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is about a racist inept judge, how political ideologies have already formed determination of guilt or innocence, and the heartbeat which pulls it along, is how 8 very different people, with a similar end goal, can get grouped together whether they want to or not. There’s a discordance among the defendants even when they sympathize with each other, which the film builds on to show where the judge and jury may not sympathize with them.

Normally, Eddie Redmayne is not thought of as a revolutionary, and is more frequently maligned for his very British, very posh demeanor. That casting confused me greatly, you wouldn’t necessarily think of him as a 60s war protestor alongside Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman (a more obvious fit). But that was before I got to know Tom Hayden. He was the “new left” an intellectually-based fight for democracy with written words and less media-rousing. [Side note, as I have since learned, Hayden was married to Jane Fonda in the 1970s and 80s, after the events of the movie]. This is a very reserved Eddie Redmayne, and unsurprisingly does fantastic things with Sorkin’s dialogue especially in his one showy scene and a courtroom standing ovation final scene.

There’s a really great push and pull in the discordant attitudes between Hayden and Hoffman. These are two guys on the same side of the same fight but have such differing demeanors, they don’t believe they should be on the same side. But like it or not (they don’t), the government has named them as co-conspirators despite not previously meeting. They disagree with each others approach that the defense is seen as quarrelsome and in real life it seems it was even more antagonistic than the film made it out to be.

Sorkin has a tendency of idealizing things, especially politics. I don’t blame him and most would argue that’s where his popularity comes from. However, that idealism is very evident in The Trial of the Chicago 7. In particular with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, the lead attorney hired by the US Attorney General to indict and prosecute the conspiracy 7. Sorkin went out of his way in multiple otherwise unnecessary scenes to say he’s a good guy. A guy on the right who is going to stand up for the fundamental rights of people on the left. The one who can stand up to a racist judge and say nobody should be treated that inhumanely. Here, I’m referring to Bobby Seale, the 8th defendant, a black man who had no connection at all to the others, who was only put on trial because he’s Black and was treated abhorrently. There is so much drama and tension in this movie, and it expertly slides into Sorkin’s more comedic dialogue without losing any of the emotional weight.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is idealized, some facts glossed over and changed, but I have no problem with that. It’s a fascinating period of time and molded into an entertaining movie.