The Trial of the Chicago 7: My review



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  • The Trial of the Chicago 7: My review

    Best movie I’ve seen so far this pandemic (or best TV movie or streaming movie — who knows anymore?) is THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is always at his best when he’s dealing with a real issue, complexities, a trial, and smart characters. And this project is right in his wheelhouse.

    As Sorkin tells it, this project began 13 years ago. He was summoned to Steven Spielberg’s house one Saturday morning. Spielberg said he wanted to do a movie about the Chicago 7 and wondered if Sorkin wanted to write it. Aaron said yes immediately. He then went home, called his father, and asked who the Chicago 7 were? Sorkin was 7 himself at the time of the riots and trial.

    That led to a long winding road through development hell. And throw in a WGA strike for good measure. (Any project that has a long development history has a WGA strike somewhere in its background.) And it’s not like Sorkin didn’t have other things to write/produce/direct in the intervening years.

    But with the Trump administration and the re-emergence of protests and protesters being vilified, the subject matter suddenly took on a greater relevance. Originally schedule for theatrical release by Paramount, once the pandemic hit, Netflix stepped in, and thankfully released the movie BEFORE the election.

    Sorkin assembled an amazing cast led by Eddie Redmayne, Sasha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, and Frank Langella. (NOTE: On my upcoming podcast episode that drops later tonight, Rob Long and I discuss having to fire Frank Langella from a pilot. That said, he’s AMAZING in this.)

    The story itself is riveting and all too similar to what’s going on now. That’s why I recommend you see it, and do so before November 3rd.

    The actors apparently all worked for scale, but I’m sure a big incentive was getting to speak Sorkin dialogue. It’s just lyrical and accomplishes so much on so many levels. The trial itself lasted over 6 months. There are 21,000 pages of transcriptions. Numerous books exist on the subject. To winnow all of that down to two hours, make it clear, make it entertaining, create multi-dimensional characters, establish relationships and subplots, and consistently crackle — that’s an extraordinary achievement. And Sorkin pulls it off. I must admit, I go to many plays and play readings and think to myself, “this would be so much better if Aaron Sorkin wrote it.” He really has a gift with dialogue and for me, it’s a pleasure to hear. Give me that over a CGI superhero slugfest any day.
    THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 streams on Netflix. Oh... and Sorkin did a great job of directing too.