The Trial of the Chicago 7 is based on the same situation which also spawned the 1987 TV movie, Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8… so, who’s the 8th individual? I’ll get to that.
Naturally, there’s quite a few main characters in this, namely Rennie Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) and Davies (Alex Sharp) representing Leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society, Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong – The Big Short) and Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen – Grimsby) from the Leaders of the Youth International Party (Yippies), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch – Lucky) from the Leader of the Mobilisation To End The War in Vietnam (aka The Mobe), plus Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) and John Froines (Danny Flaherty).
This takes them up to 7, but who’s the 8th? Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the National Chairman of the Black Panther Party, who he states that for all those who tried things peacefully, such as Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jesus… they are all dead, so now it’s time to try something different. When it comes to why he’s there, his story will be told as to how he fits in, but he does claim early on that because he’s the only black member of the eight, he was thrown in to make them look scarier(!)
However, while Abbie and Jerry just want to host a rock gig in the park, the overall intention on October 5th 1968 is for a peaceful protest. From a relatively small event where Tom is spotted letting down the tyres on a police car, the demonstrators are forced to retreat from their initial plan and to head back to the park, where they’re met with a a hill loaded with police, the ultimate destination being the Democratic National Convention, but were any of the 8 actually involved in breaking what’s known as the Rap Brown Law, i.e. crossing state lines in order to incite violence? And if any of them were, then how?
That’s what will be determined five months later at the court trial in the US Dept of Justice, in a case led by Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella – Unknown), who’s rather an idiot and looks like he’d struggle to realise that outside, the Vietnam war is going on with over 500,000 men called up to serve, and many more to follow.
Representing them is the laconic William Kunstler (Mark Rylance – Ready Player One), and as the story is told in flashback with scenes of the rioting, this does start off rather slow, but is one of those rare films that does improve the more it goes on, even if it could use some tightening up.
Kudos to all involved, but as well as Rylance, the other stand-out performances come from Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, and Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, the real Hoffman being 32 at the time of the trial, but Cohen is actually 49 at the time of this film’s release. So, a bit of artistic licence there, but looking up the man at the time of the trial, I can see he had a fairly well-worn face, so it all still works. Besides, as I also head towards 50, I’d quite like to be mistaken for being in my early 30s as well!
With a trial that lasts almost 6 months, while there’s other things I could say, I also don’t want to go on too long, so I’ll conclude that The Trial of the Chicago 7 is certainly worthy of your time.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is on Netflix from Friday October 16th, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. However, from October 29th, you can buy The Screenplay in paperback or Kindle format; and The Official Transcript in paperback or Kindle format.
There are several other books about the event on Amazon, but I’m not a book reviewer, so you can make your choice here.
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 130 minutes
Release date: October 16th 2020
Format: 2.39:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Producers: Stuart M Besser, Matt Jackson, Marc Platt, Tyler Thompson
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Tom Hayden: Eddie Redmayne
Rennie Davis: Alex Sharp
Abbie Hoffman: Sacha Baron Cohen
Jerry Rubin: Jeremy Strong
David Dellinger: John Carroll Lynch
Bobby Seale: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
William Kunstler: Mark Rylance
Richard Schultz: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Leonard Weinglass: Ben Shenkman
Thomas Foran: JC MacKenzie
Julius Hoffman: Frank Langella
Lee Weiner: Noah Robbins
John Froines: Danny Flaherty
John Mitchell: John Doman
Det. Sam McGiven: Mike Geraghty
Fred Hampton: Kelvin Harrison Jr
Daphne: Caitlin FitzGerald
Reporter Jack: John Quilty
Stan Wojohowski: Max Adler
Carl Oglesby: Michael A Dean
Mrs. Dellinger: Meghan Rafferty
Daniel Dellinger: Brady Jenness
David Stahl: Steve Routman
Ramsey Clark: Michael Keaton
Bernadine: Alice Kremelberg
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.