Review: The Trial Of The Chicago Seven
Archie Lockyer reviews Aaron Sorkin’s latest film The Trial Of The Chicago Seven.
Aaron Sorkin is one of the best screenwriters working today, his ability to write, snappy engaging dialogue often with large amounts of crosscutting throughout scenes creates a dynamic and utterly encapsulating form of writing for the viewer. It is without a doubt that Aaron Sorkin is the king of the legal/ biographical drama with his early film A Few Good Men and the masterpiece The Social Network.
Sorkin’s scripts revolving around the courtroom seem to be ripe for The Trial of the Chicago Seven; with his style of writing being shown off in full glory throughout the film. The plot follows the legal battles of eight individuals who are accused of trying to start a riot during the 1969 Democratic National Convention, this instantly leads to an interesting dynamic due to the characters’ different allegiances and ideologies on the left-wing of American politics, which allows for Sorkin to show the simmering tension between the defendants. Sorkin’s love of crosscutting throughout time is put on perfect display here with the constant swapping between the past and present of the film which leads to some exhilarating and emotionally heart-breaking sequences, particularly the scenes of police brutality against the protestors which is intercut gloriously by Alan Braumgarten with real footage making my blood boil with rage over the treatment of the progressive movement within America during the ’60s and ’70s. Yet, the genius of Sorkin is not that this is merely a throwback to a “different” time but rather a parable for the modern times with the increasingly divided world we live in. Sorkin seeks to show that unity and cooperation are possible despite our differences which, in a time of massive upheaval, is a poignant voice to hear.
The Trial of the Chicago Seven’s cast is titanic and works, for the most part, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, and Jeremy Strong (to name but a few) all put in a good performance. Yet the tour de force is Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, the leader of the Yippies; Cohen perfectly encapsulates the bold and often showy nature of the Yippy movement, openly mocking judges and individuals. He truly is sensational, with Cohen’s acting ability transcending years of comedy into drama immaculately.
However, the biggest problem by far faced by The Trial of the Chicago Seven is also Aaron Sorkin. This is Sorkin’s second foray (Sorkin also directing the perfectly solid Molly’s Game) into directing yet it still does not match the quality of his screenwriting, it often leads to a rather mediocre or sloppy level of care in certain scenes, with certain elements appearing beyond melodramatic. The ending particularly left me to roll my eyes with it’s incredibly over the top and fabricated tone which seems to go against everything Sorkin usually stands for in his writing. Furthermore, the scale of the cast can sometimes be slightly overwhelming and therefore distracting with Frank Langella and Michael Keaton both appearing in the film alongside the main cast which I found to take away from the protagonists.
Overall, I would recommend The Trial of the Chicago Seven, with its intriguing and modern exploration of a vital point in history, a fantastic script, and a cast that is bound to intrigue, despite the directional issues. It is set for awards in the coming months.