After movies like The Social Network and Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin has arrived with another masterpiece – The Trial of Chicago 7. The movie is a star-studded event of the year and is somehow relevant even in today’s scenario. The film is based on the infamous trial of 1969 of seven defendants charged by the federal government. The charges are based on the violence arising from protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Peaceful protests held against the Vietnam War takes the form of an ugly violent riot with tear gas and rifles. The incoming Richard Nixon administration decides to make an example out of it by charging the seven main protestors with conspiracy to stir up a riot. While avoiding all the spoilers, you should know that there is also an eighth person at the beginning of the trial, which, due to some serious circumstances, is soon given a mistrial. This movie is a reenactment of the ludicrous trial that follows.
Usually, movies give little screen time to courtroom scenes because it usually gets a little boring after a while. But Sorkin took a bold step by writing the whole drama in a courtroom and very little screen time for the other scenes. And the best part is that this tale of unserved justice does not get boring at all.
The protestors who have been tried have very different personalities and, even though they have the same motive of getting justice from the court, they disagree with each other from time to time. They all have a different way to deal with things and as the story unfolds in The Trial of Chicago 7, you see some very unexpected things come to the limelight.
The diversity of the group increases when the leader of the Black Panther, already on trial for the murder of a police officer, is tried with them. However, he is treated very differently by a white judge who is clearly partial and doesn’t have the patience to absorb views that differ from his own. One of them is quick to decide that it is not like any other trial but is in fact a ‘political trial.’
The film is relevant during the on-going election situation in America, where tensions and absurdity are running high – be it the president saying absurd statements or police officers behaving irrationally and sparking protests. It is a sad but true reality that not much has changed in the last five decades.
If you just focus on the story of The Trial of Chicago 7 and forget about its geography, you’ll see that it is not a story which only Americans can relate to but it is a story about every country where discrimination exists, where government often misuses its authority and people are put in jail for the wrong reasons. It is also relevant in India where a lot of protests that started peacefully were converted into violent riots after the involvement of police.
The Trial of Chicago 7 is very predictable and yet unpredictable at the same time. The audience can predict that there is very little chance that these protestors will get any justice and if they have read about the case already they know that they don’t. But what’s interesting and unpredictable about the story is how the protestors behave when faced with different situations, both at the trial and at the protests. Also interesting to note is to what extent the judge or government go to to turn the trial in the favor of the police department in this case.
The only thing that is a little disappointing about The Trial of Chicago 7 is the character of Richard Schultz, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, which seems promising from the beginning but doesn’t deliver much in the story and seems like a waste of Levitt’s talent. Besides that, the casting is really good. Also, the music and the art direction is decent. The screenplay and direction are remarkable. The editing must be applauded as it keeps you attentive throughout the movie with various flashbacks of the protests and some archival clips. The actors left no stone unturned when it comes to depicting their characters and have done a commendable job in the movie.
In conclusion, Netflix’s The Trial of Chicago 7, based on a 1969 trial, is a must-watch and is not only meant for entertainment but also gives you a lot to think to review your own government and the various protests that take place in your country. It is a sharp commentary on how people are often misunderstood and how authority figures go to lengths to save themselves from the repercussions of their actions.
The Trial of Chicago 7 is streaming on Netflix.
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