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the trial of the chicago 7 (2020) should have been made about ten years ago under the direction of steven spielberg. screenwriter and director aaron sorkin wrote the script in 2007. last year, sorkin took the lead himself. a story 50 years old seems more urgent than ever.
in this true story, seven men are indicted after a peaceful demonstration against the vietnam war in 1968 at the democratic convention in chicago ended in a bloodbath. in a controversial six-month trial, the various organizers are tried. a prejudiced and privileged judge deals with a case that clearly does not tolerate contradiction.
america is on fire
the film opens with archive images at the time of the vietnam war and we see the total arbitrariness in which young men have to perform their conscription. among others, we're seeing president lyndon b. johnson and civil rights activist martin luther king. the main characters in this story are introduced which together form the chicago 7. it is clear that these are very diverse when it comes to different groups. students are represented, activists and preachers of nonviolence and passant also the leader of the black panther party. not even a lawyer. although it is spoken of the chicago 7, eight men are actually on trial. the charge is conspiracy of organized riots. but most men don't know each other at all. the new minister of justice under president nixon wants to set an example and has a public prosecutor appointed against his will and tasked to bring the men to justice. it is clear that this is a political process.
strong dialogues and cast
the film has a very strong cast but is fortunately not full of just famous heads. that's usually just distracting. mark rylance as william kunstler, the passionate advocate of the seven men's strength. but even sacha baron cohen as abbie hoffman of the yippies comes out well. and we also see eddie redmayne in a very different role than we usually see him in. frank langella as judge julius hoffman is phenomenal. he's going to get you to get really irritated by him as a viewer. the verbal fireworks, and therefore the performance of the act, take place only in court. the flashbacks are only there to clarify the story but are less strong and convincing.
more topical than ever
this movie could not have come at a better time because the story is more urgent than ever in the trump era of the black lives matter movement with increasing police violence, racism and right-wing extremism. court movies were extremely popular in the fifties to seventies of the last century but then you saw less and less often. sorkin is primarily a great screenwriter who debuted in 2017 with the film molly's game (2017). he wrote a few good men (1992) and the political series "the west wing" (1999-2006). he also won an oscar for his script from the social network (2010).
whether he is a better screenwriter than a director, time has to learn, but sorkin knows how to make a solid drama out of it that, despite the long playing time, remains captivating and enjoying enough.
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