The Trial of The Trial Of The Chicago 7

Luke Rapallo ‘24

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is an R-rated 2020 film directed by Aaron Sorkin starring Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jeremy Strong. The movie is a drama concerning the trial of the organizers of the Chicago anti-Vietnam War protests in 1968. The film was created by Netflix and is currently available for streaming on the site. 


The general story is that “The Chicago 7” are on trial for inciting a riot, and they have to fight for their freedom in a court of law against an insufferable openly biased judge. As more and more information about the incident itself is revealed, the 7 have to argue for their freedom to protest against a system that is rigged against them. 


Overall I think the movie was well paced, certainly for a 2+ hour long film. There was never a moment where you felt like it had been too long since something happened, yet it also didn’t feel like an onslaught of information. The movie uses a specific structure where whenever there is a major plot development, they provide space for the characters to talk about it, leaving you with each character’s perspective on the situation as well as further development for their character. 


The film actually uses a plethora of similar devices to further spice up an already well written interesting film, one of these being the clever way that exposition is provided to the viewer. Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is a stand-up comic who is one of the Chicago 7, whenever the viewer needs to know about something that happened in the past, it cuts to his character giving a stand up performance on the very topic they are discussing. This is usually used in juxtaposition to incorrect information given by the judge or malicious witnesses. 

The other major device the film uses is hate and hopelessness. These are undoubtedly created by the judge as well as some of the circumstances of the trial in general. The writing does such a good job of first making you hate the judge, played by Jerry Rubin with every fiber of your being, and then making you feel like that he is entirely untouchable. I personally think this was one of the best written villains of the last century. 


Another facet that aided the portrayal of the judge was the stellar casting. This movie walks the perfect balance of having big name actors, but not such big names that you can’t see them as anyone else. Almost every single character feels very realistic, and looks the part as well. If I had to criticize the casting, occasionally Eddie Redmayne’s British accent would be slightly noticeable, but this is not a big enough issue to dock the movie any points. 


Unfortunately, the score was nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad. It just fit the stereotypical movie score formula. It didn’t feel like something they were proud of, but more of something that they thought was just good enough. This movie had a really good opportunity to use some clever music, perhaps even some songs from the time period, but it did not capitalize on that opportunity.


This movie was written by Aaron Sorkin who has earned his reputation as a clever writer who prioritizes comedy as well as well written drama. He is best known for his show The West Wing.  The writing definitely fits the Sorkin mold, it is very clever and filled with witty jokes, as well as very impactful moments. One of the writing’s biggest strengths is the ability to juggle comedy and drama without the tone feeling inconsistent. The comedy can bring a bit of brevity to an otherwise very dark moment, however the comedy knows when to take a backseat to the drama. 


Overall, this movie is great and absolutely worth your time. While it is R rated there is nothing in it I personally think a middle to high schooler can’t handle. I would not recommend it for younger children however, there are definitely moments of violence/swearing that you might not want a younger kid to see. It kept me and my entire family captivated throughout the entire film. If I had to give it a star rating I would give it at a ⅘. The only thing it could’ve done better to earn a perfect score would be to have a more impactful soundtrack.