The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is a historical legal drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The film follows a group of anti–Vietnam War protesters. Branded the name of “The Chicago Seven”, they have been charged by the federal government with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I didn’t know I wanted to see this film until I saw it — The Trial Of The Chicago 7 definitely gets my vote, well done!
In August 1968, Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) – a founding member of the Youth International Party (Yippies), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) – a founding member of the Yippies, Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) – a leader and one-time president of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) – an organizer in Chicago for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the national organizer of community organizing for the SDS, David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) – leader of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) – the only Chicagoan of the seven defendants, John Froines (Daniel Flaherty) – on the faculty at Goddard College in Vermont, where he taught chemistry, Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) – national chairman of the Black Panther Party and eighth defendant, make preparations to protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Five months later, all eight of them are arrested and charged with trying to incite a riot. John N. Mitchell (John Doman), the Attorney General, appoints Tom Foran (J. C. MacKenzie) and Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as the prosecutors, while all the defendants except Seale are represented by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman).
Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) who presides over the trial, shows significant prejudice for the prosecution. Bobby Seale’s attorney, Charles Garry could not be in court because he was hospitalized having had emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder. This prompted all the attornies to request the trial be delayed, but the judge would not comply. Seale repeatedly blurted out in court that he had no lawyer which led Judge Hoffman to insist that Kunstler represent Bobby along with the other seven defendants, however, the Judge’s insistence was rejected repeatedly by both Kunstler and Seale. The only support Seale receives is from a colleague named Fred Hampton (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) who sat right behind Bobby in court, which Judge Hoffman assumes is legal help. Abbie Hoffman openly antagonizes the court throughout the proceedings. Judge Hoffman (who is not related to Abbie) begins replacing jurors who are suspected of sympathizing with the defendants due to unproven reported threats from the Black Panther Party and charges the defendants and their attorneys with multiple counts of contempt of court. Days later, the defendants learn that Fred Hampton was killed during a police raid. In retaliation to Seale continuing to speak up for his constitutional rights, Judge Hoffman has him taken to another room, beaten, and returned gagged and chained. The prosecution and defense object to the judge’s order against Bobby, so Judge Hoffman declares Seale’s case a mistrial. In reality, the original title was for the Chicago 8 but due to Seale’s severance, it became the Chicago 7.
The trial goes on for nearly five months. Many truths were revealed and covered up. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clarke’s testimony alone would have caused the entire trial to be thrown out or with all defendants found not guilty but because of racist judges like Hoffman, his testimony was covered up instead. There are so many issues with the original trial which writer/director Aaron Sorkin tried to make known to the public that one would gasp at what was allowed to pass. Based on our current political climate, this story is one for the masses. The Trial Of The Chicago 7 was originally slated to be directed by Steven Spielberg but he pulled out in favor of Molly’s Game, giving his blessing to Sorkin. There is much to learn about each of the 7 defendants as well as all of the prosecutors. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 309 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads, “An actors’ showcase enlivened by its topical fact-based story, The Trial of the Chicago 7 plays squarely – and compellingly – to Aaron Sorkin’s strengths.” Additionally, The Trial Of The Chicago 7 received five nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards (winning for Best Screenplay). I found The Trial of the Chicago 7 film to be a necessary addition to our society with a huge potential impact — Check It Out!
[THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 is Oscar-nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best: Picture, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Song, and Original Screenplay — Totaling 6 Nominations]