The Trial of the Chicago 7
By James Davidson
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is the story of 7 people on trial for instigating the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois. It debuted in October of 2020 on the popular streaming service Netflix and features a powerhouse cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Eddie Redmayne. It focuses on the trial of the 7 leaders of the protests at the ‘68 convention that led to terrible violence between the protesters and the Chicago Police Department. The trial ends up being more of a political trial than an actual criminal trial as the rights of freedom of speech and the right to gather and protest are questioned by the newly elected Nixon administration.
I hadn’t heard of these protests, or the subsequent trial before and I thought that this film sounded interesting and it brought up many questions for me to research. I’m not sure of the accuracy, or bias of the film, but I still found it interesting and informative and thought it would be an entertaining film.
I found the story to be interesting and very well written. It grabbed my attention from the beginning. It begins by introducing all of the characters and showing a bit of their motivations for organizing the protests. The 1968 election was overshadowed by the police action in Vietnam. With this extremely controversial issue hanging over the election, the Democratic nominee was hotly contested and very controversial. The 7 people in charge of organizing the protests were there to voice their displeasure of the nominee. I found the film to convey this point well and it did a good job clearly showing the divide that was going on in our country at that time.
The actors portraying the 7 co-conspirators did an amazing job at bringing these characters to life. The 7 on trial were Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), John Froines (Danny Flaherty), and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins). These 7, along with an eighth Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) were all leaders of different political parties wanting to voice their displeasure with the current United States government. The first seven are represented by attorney William Kunstler (Mark Rylance), with Bobby Seale being unrepresented by any legal aide. That, and the fact that the trial against Seale was declared a mistrial, is why it is considered to be the Chicago 7 and not 8.
The film does a great job at shedding light on the hardships that the 8 defendants faced, including a seemingly unfair trial and a hostile judge who seemed to already be convinced of their guilt. I think this movie was extremely informative, and raised a lot of questions that should lead to a lot of research. I’m not sure how accurate the portrayal of the trial is but it should cause anyone who watches it to learn more about this terrible occurrence if they are not already aware of it.
The film can get quite emotional and really made me feel some of the anger and frustration I’m sure the defendants were feeling during their trial. There were several scenes in the court that had me outraged, especially when Bobby Seale was bound and gagged in a courtroom. That fact had me doing some quick research to see if that did or could actually happen in an American courtroom (it did).
This movie is rated R for language throughout, some violence, bloody images, and drug use. There are a few scenes and situations that are probably too mature for younger children, but this movie is a great movie to watch with older children or a group of friends. It should raise a lot of healthy questions and discussion.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is an extremely well done, captivating film that features some exceptional acting performances. It’s not a great movie to “escape” from reality with, but it is a must watch, emotional film that should raise a lot of questions and discussion among family and friends. I think that this is one of the best films to come out this year and I have already watched it twice. It earns 5 out of 5 stars.