The Trial of the Chicago 7

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: An exceptional film with a brilliant cast that shines a depressingly revealing light on the judicial and political systems we have in so-called democracies, even today.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Holy wow this was an extremely good movie. I knew a little about the real-life events on which the film is based and am certainly aware of it being referenced across pop culture, but not enough to truly know how much is fact versus fiction. Well, spoiler: the Hollywood moments are unsurprisingly fictional (for the most part; some of Abbie Hoffmann's more ridiculous stunts were actually real). Still, most of it holds up well, and moments like the big ending reading out all of the fallen soldier's names are still impactful and beneficial to the plot, even if real life wasn't quite so neat and tidy. The only bit I didn't like was David Dellinger punching the court official – that just felt a bit lazy and unwarranted.

I think the biggest shock was just how accurate the judge is to what actually happened. The film is a damning highlight reel of all the aspects of corruption and incompetence possible in a legal system based around a judiciary and it's frankly terrifying to consider that this is the same system in place today, both in the US and elsewhere around the world. The very concept of being held "in contempt of the court" is so clearly an abusable power it baffles me that it exists in the first place. Luckily, IRL the judgements were largely overturned and the judge himself thrown out as a result of the trial, but that's still too little, too late.

It is, of course, also a hugely timely movie that touches on elements of classism, racism, and the general struggle of people versus power. The moments surrounding Black Panther Bobby Seale are particularly harrowing (and a rare instance of something the film actually downplays, which is horrifying), but so too is the entire premise that the trial was brought as political point-scoring higher up the chain. That these people's lives were effectively held captive because of a beef between two senior politicians is oh so damnable as to be almost humorous, if it weren't a thing that actually happened.

Story aside, the film is a masterpiece in every sense. The direction is on point, the pacing is perfect, and the cast are phenomenal. It was nice to see Eddie Redmayne play a slightly different character, Frank Langella as the judge was great, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II brought a real sense of gravitas to Bobby Seale. Elsewhere, JGL and Keaton were both as impeccable as you would expect (still not sure how I feel about them softening JGL's character, who was more monster than man by any account and slightly lets the government off the hook, which is a shame), and Mark Rylance did a great job as the defending lawyer Kunstler. Yet all of these A-listers were utterly eclipsed by the combination of Jeremy Strong and Sacha Baron-Cohen as Jerry and Abbie respectively. Their hippie intellectual jokesters were brilliantly played throughout, and Baron-Cohen in particular gave a performance I don't think I'll forget for many years. That man is so unbelievably talented and it's incredible to see him what he can truly do as an actor.

Which is all to say that this is a brilliant, if slightly heavy, movie and I think a clear contender for awards season this year. Excellent stuff.

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