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Movie Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Written by tha - bang from the blog Movies and Things with Thabang on 19 Oct 2020
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Aaron Sorkin has crafted a name for himself as one of the best writers of our generation. His witty dialogue has become a signature.

From A Few Good Men to The West Wing to The Newsroom to The Social Network, Sorkin has proven no one does rapid fire dialogue and wit like him.

He adds that wit and smart jabs to this historical drama that really speaks to a lot of what's happening in the US right now, to make one of the best movies of 2020 to hit cinema and Netflix.

Let's dig in.

Quick history lesson: like the Apartheid state, the US goverment trialed eight men on charges of conspiracy, inciting to riot and many minor charges related to the 1968 riots in Chicago, as a way to make everyone else toe the line.

Why did this warrant a movie? Because it proves that old adage true: "the more things change, the more they stay the same". 

The Trial of the Chicago 7 zooms into a lot of issues that are prevalent today, including police brutality, the demonization of protestors, the abuse of state resources to settle political scores, the victimization of black people and the undermining of the rule of law by the state.

Aaron Sorkin puts a great ensemble to play off each of these themes. You have the rising star of Yayha Abdul Mateen II, fresh from his Emmy win for Watchmen, playing the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale, who is basically being railroaded by the state for being black and a panther.

He is trialed without a lawyer, undercut by the judge at every turn and finally restrained like a slave in a court of law. The sad part is that in real life Bobby Seale was restrained more than once during the trial.

Sorkin needs to be applauded in that he does address the different realities that the black accused faces as opposed to the white accused.

Even touching on the assassination of Fred Hampton, who is the subject of the upcoming Judas and the Black Messiah.

Fred Hampton was the regional chairperson of the Chicago branch and he had invited Bobby Seale to make a speech during the protest, and was assassinated by the Chicago police during the trial.

Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance showcase why they are Oscar winners with their nuanced performance of characters who believe in the system and through the movie start to lose faith.

Redmayne's character loses faith in the politics of respectability, whilst Rylance's lawyer character sees that the state is not above defaming the law for political gain.

Frank Langella and Sacha Boren Cohen (of Borat and Ali G fame)  deliver performances that are screaming for Oscars. Langella embodies Judge Hoffman's stubbornness and arrogrance with such great ease that one wishes you could throw a shoe at him through the screen. That's how great he is.

Whilst everyone knows Cohen can do accents well, in this movie he makes his case that he can pull a Tom Hanks and move from comedy to dramatic roles with ease. The role leans on his comedic and dramatic timings and he knocks it out of the park. 

The cast makes love to Sorkin's words and we the audience are there for the ride. There is no weak delivery, there is no unncessary scene - even the historical setup is done with such great flare.

This is one of the most well conceived and put together films out there.

But when all is said and done, it comes back to the issues. Police using force to escalate rather than de-escalate protests... we keep seeing it on CNN, from Pittsburg to Kenosha.

American police's use of force has made the protests worse, whereby protestors are made to look like a mad group of rioters and police the face of law and order.

The issue of partisan politics affecting the rule of law, where civil servants bend the rules because of their political overlords, which continues with the Trump COVID saga - his taxes and his red state senators' reactions to issues.

Then there's the reason why the protest happened to begin with - the US state's unjust war in 1968 in Vietnam. Today we've had Afganistan, Libya, Iraq, Iran - the list continues.

It's as if the US, like the world, is not learning from history and keeps repeating the same mistakes. Movies like this remind us that we can't continue to forget.

We can't forget that there is power in standing for principals. That we should not be quick to cast protestors as rioters and to see the police as the good guys.

Above all we can't forget that as people we should not be afraid of our government - it should be the other way round.

What it felt like: A court room drama to rival the best court room dramas ever made, from Philadelphia to A Few Good Men.

* trash **you are on your own ***it tries ****Almost Perfect *****Instant Classic


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