“The Trial of the Chicago 7” deserves as much praise as it can get

From the very first minute, I realized I was in for a cinematic treat. Aaron Sorkin brought his A-game talent to Netflix, and it truly shows. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is very reminiscent of Sorkin’s “The Social Network,” as far as cinematography and screenwriting go.

Even though the distribution rights were originally planned for a theatrical release by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, the film was sold to Netflix, due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

It was released as a Netflix original film on Oct. 16.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is based on the true 1969 trial of seven defendants charged with conspiracy and inciting riots relating to protests over the Vietnam War. 

The film most notably stars Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz, and Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark.

Although it is hard to write movies based on true events, Sorkin brought each character to life through his unique directing style.

Seven people are put on trial after they protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Two of the seven defendants are Hayden and Davis.

After the first day of the trial, it becomes very evident Judge Julius Hoffman, played by Frank Langella, shows significant prejudice for the defendants. Furthermore, Hoffman only listens to the prosecutor, Schultz, rather than the defendants.

All of the actors who portrayed the defendants gave amazing performances of people who wanted nothing more than to win over the consideration of the judge. Each defendant has different distinct personalities and views of what occurred during the riot.

Cohen as Abbie Hoffman particularly stands out of the ensemble cast, due to his wide range of emotions. In one scene, he can be cracking jokes and making the viewer laugh – but in another, he could be giving a heartfelt and deep speech.

Cohen is known for portraying quirky and off-putting characters, such as “Borat,” “Ali-G,” and “Bruno” in an offensive manner. Therefore, it is a nice change of pace for him to be offering a wider range of emotion to his characters without losing his comedic touch.

Gordon-Levitt’s performance was absolutely outstanding as well. He took his acting to new heights as a stuck-up prosecutor, who – for most of the film – cared very little about the defendants on trial.

The film itself was an emotional rollercoaster – especially in the second half. There were very few comedic chops once it got serious. And while Cohen made the occasional joke, the film’s atmosphere was gloomy and intense during the last hour.

Due to the consistent jump-cuts and the fact that the camera never lingered on a frame for more than 10 seconds, the film never got dull or boring. There was always something happening, even though most of the film centered around the courtroom itself.

Sorkin’s snappy script kept the movie alive as well. Despite having a truly disturbing subject matter, the film kept moving at a brisk pace and never dwelled on the character’s suffering. As a viewer, it made the experience even better, since prolonged sequences of torture or threat usually draw me away from films.

The dialogue was realistic as well, and each individual character was fully fleshed out. There was not one actor who seemed to have been miscast.

Along with the screenwriting, the film’s editing was fantastic. The almost seamless scene transitions made for a smooth viewing experience. And, most importantly, there were no scenes that felt tacked on.

The soundtrack of the film never felt overdone, but did get loud at moments – especially during the protest scene. But the music never got loud enough to muffle the dialogue.

What stood out most of all though was the color pallet. The colors were not muted in the slightest bit – the blacks were definitely black and the scenery popped. Even when watching it in SDR, the colors were more vivid than most movies with HDR.

And above all, the film’s message about the federal government’s overuse of power was actually relevant to today’s era. Sorkin made it obvious that the U.S. government was still as flawed back in the late 1960s as it is today.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is an absolutely phenomenal film. Sorkin blew this film out of the water with his flawless script and casting choices. 

The movie flew by, despite its two-plus hour runtime. If Netflix continues to cash in on these types of blockbuster films, they’ll have the strongest lineup out of any streaming service.

Rating: A+ – Sorkin has outdone himself yet again