Director: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong
Run Time: 130 mins
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is Aaron Sorkin’s second directorial effort, most famous for his screenwriting duties on films such as The Social Network and Moneyball. His scripts are typically talky and characters have identical spoken vernacular, regardless of their intelligence. Sorkin moved to directing his first feature a couple of years ago, Molly’s Game, which was a promising first effort. The Chicago 7 were a group of individuals who are charged with conspiring to incite a riot on America’s involvement with the Vietnam war. They range from Eddie Redmayne’s Tom Hayden, who mostly resembles the leader, who was once a President of the Students for a Democratic Society. Sacha Baron Cohen is Abbie Hoffman, one of the founding members of the Yippies, who is tongue-in-cheek but frank, a role which suits the actor perfectly, a complete contrast to Redmayne’s leader and they often disagree with each other. Another interesting contrast to these two individuals in the groups is John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, a polite pacifist.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is pretty typical Aaron Sorkin, which is a good thing as he spins a gripping yarn from the material. The trial is fascinating, particularly in how Frank Langella’s Judge abuses his power in the court of law. Sorkin powerfully interweaves the talky trial with flashbacks to the event and he masterfully creates tension in the run up to the riot. When the film depicts the event that got the Chicago 7 in hot water, it really earns its moment. The performances are suitably excellent and Sorkin has assembled a terrific cast. The particular standouts are expectedly Sacha Baron Cohen and Frank Langella, the latter is really excellent as the scheming, icy judge. Mark Rylance is also terrific as the lawyer representing the group, who at first is rather reticent but then fights for what he thinks is right. Sorkin has developed well as a director. The problem with Molly’s Game was that its second half couldn’t match its gripping first half but this isn’t the case here. The film suitably progresses and reaches a clear denouement. That said, Sorkin is still yet to match some of the director’s films he wrote in terms of artistic flair.
Ultimately, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a strong follow-up from Sorkin and deserves the praise it is getting for the upcoming Awards season. This is a timely topic to interrogate and the cast work well with the smart screenplay.