Summary: The trial surrounding protests against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Well, I’m glad that despite my disappointment in WW84 and Onwards and Mulan, I was able to close out 2020 with Soul and this movie. Remember when I raged against Ford V. Furious and I said I needed to watch something a bit more topical and socially relevant? Consider that satisfied for the next few weeks, because I don’t think there’s anything I could have watched other than The Trial of the Chicago 7 that pretty much pinpointed the many emotions I’ve had with this year’s politics. I laughed. I cried. I got mad. I was exasperated. I threw my hands up and exclaimed “Finally!” at least twice.
That includes all of the cringey scoffs I directed at Frank Langella’s Judge Hoffman, who personified all of the times I thought “WHO HIRED THIS GUY!?” in the past 8 months. There are so many wrong steps in the trial that it’s impossible not to feel infuriated during the movie, and appropriately so. We should be angry about the extremely one-sided structures and systems that were in place years ago that have only enabled today’s faults. Our system is so broken. It’s so Frankenstein-ed. It’s fine. This is a movie review, kind of. It’s fine. “OVERRULED!”
A lot of the strength of this movie comes from its script and direction, both done by Aaron Sorkin. I’m not one for courtroom dramas, but this really held my attention, as it weaves together the testimonies, narration, and what “actually” happened; and I found the dialogue surprisingly restrained compared to some of his previous work. And this is some of the best use of montages of different timelines that I can recall (I’m probably exaggerating, I don’t remember what I watched this year ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). That, paired with excellent acting from Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong (number one boy!), Mark Rylance, the aforementioned Langella, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and the film’s MVP Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, has probably saved at least half the Oscars. (The only one I’m on the fence about is Eddie Remayne who really doesn’t do anything spectacular here, but will see a slew of nominations because what else is going on?)
I’m also weirdly, pleasantly surprised with how good this movie made me feel, despite how awful the actual trial was at the time- the obvious trial missteps, blatant corruption, and how the trial turned out. It’s not a fun ride all the way through, but with use of humor and quiet campfire scenes, it results in a pretty uplifting and inspiring ending- people selflessly taking a stand in the name of the greater good and creating a movement for the betterment of society. Really couldn’t recommend this one enough.