Movie review: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin creates the dialogue you wish you could come up with, whether it's an argument, public speaking or trying to coerce a favour.
The timing of his new film The Trial Of The Chicago 7, now streaming on Netflix and his second turn as a director after 2017's Molly's Game, has seen news events make this story of protests and violence from over 50 years ago feel all too current.
Courtrooms are Sorkin's playground - take A Few Good Men or The Social Network, which he wrote the screenplays for.
Anywhere people have to sit around and talk, Sorkin excels.
Here, he even makes Eddie Redmayne interesting –though the Oscar-winning actor is overshadowed throughout by Sacha Baron Cohen (as the historical legal drama's anti-hero Abbie Hoffman), Mark Rylance as the defence attorney William Kunstler, Frank Langella in his element as the villain of the piece Judge Hoffman and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther Bobby Seale, whose story is the most tragic.
Refreshingly, this is not a simple case of good and bad. Everyone is flawed.
Did Redmayne's Tom Hayden incite a riot? Are the hippy-ish Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) simply antagonistic for the sake of it?
The acting is great and even after some explanation of the fates of the main players, you want to know more about the actual trial – though this is not entirely a compliment to the film.
Just as the ability to make spontaneous Sorkin-level speeches lies in fiction, the architect of The West Wing has taken liberties with the facts – detrimentally so, especially when it comes to the finale.
Chronologies are fudged, characters invented and strangely, the brutality administered to Bobby Seale is toned down and used more as a moment to make a prosecution lawyer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appear more sympathetic than he was in real life.
The most egregious dramatic liberty is taken in the closing moments, a scene so corny and detached from reality it may as well have ended with Redmayne up on the table and flag-waving in a musical number.
Rather than being uplifting, it sets off alarms over the veracity of everything else and sours the whole experience.
The Trial Of The Chicago is an entertaining and gripping drama, but should not be taken as the whole truth.
FILM: The Trial Of The Chicago 7
STARRING: Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Strong
WRITER-DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
THE SKINNY: Based on the story of the Chicago Seven, eight men are placed on trial for various charges after violence erupts at an anti-Vietnam War protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.