Film review: “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

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Lloyd Sage, Film Critic

If you’re looking for a movie to watch over fall break, I recommend “The Trial of the Chicago 7” on Netflix.

Directed by Aaron Sorkin, the movie follows the trial of seven leaders of the far left Democratic Party, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner, as well as Bobby Seale, who was the leader of the Black Panthers, on the grounds of conspiracy to move people across state lines with the intent of inciting violence during the 1968 Democratic national convention in Chicago.

The film opens with the intentions of the seven men just before the Democratic National Convention, and then transitions to the start of the trial. Scenes of the police riots (where the phrase “the whole world is watching” became part of the American lexicon) are intercut with the trial as testimony is given so that the audience learns the truth about what led to the trial as it is revealed in court. The rapid cutting between trial testimony, Abbie Hoffman’s stand up, and visual depictions of the riots adds a thrilling element of suspense for those unfamiliar with the events of the trial.

The writing and performances in this film are phenomenal. Sorkin continues to prove how gifted he is as a writer with his traditional rapid fire dialogue that is at times both dramatic and witty. Sacha Baron Cohen’s take on Abbie Hoffman is hilarious and will have you laughing even at the most uncomfortable times.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Frank Langella’s performance as Judge Julius Hoffman is superb in that every time he opens his mouth to speak, it takes everything in your power not to punch whatever screen you are watching it on.

Although it is the story of a trial that happened more than 50 years ago, it serves as a fantastic commentary about today’s current social climate. Certain scenes of the movie are tough to watch due to the discrimination of Bobby Seale and the rest Black Panthers, as well as the actions displayed by the Chicago Police Department.

Though we are supposedly a more understanding and accepting nation than we were in 1968, mass riots, police brutality and prejudices against African Americans are still major issues at the forefront of society.

Exceptionally written, well acted, and self-aware, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” serves as a reminder that if we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it.