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Issue 1752
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

A captivating courtroom drama

Film Editor Oliver Weir reviews the new Aaron Sorkin film 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' which is streaming now on Netflix

7 Photo: Netflix


in Issue 1752

Trial of the Chicago 7

★ ★ ★
The foreseeable future
£8.99 a month

With a cast as talented as this, and a screenwriter as experienced as Sorkin (the progenitor of “You can’t handle the truth” in A Few Good Men), I went in expecting good things from this movie. Despite the hiccups caused by COVID-19—which prevented it having a large cinema release, causing Netflix to step in to distribute—the film is thoroughly entertaining. It tells the story of the Chicago 7, a group of anti-Vietnam War protestors charged with crossing state lines and inciting violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden (leader of the SDS), Mark Rylance and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the heads of the defence and prosecution respectively, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale were enthralling— bringing even more colour to an already colourful trial. (Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance often took me out of the action. His role as Yippie leader, Abbie Hoffman, appeared to amount to saying very cliched hippie things, making him come off as a bit humdrum.) 

Sorkin lets the trial unfold in flashes, utilising both jumps ahead in time and flashbacks narrated by members of the Chicago 7. This gives us an all-access look at the cracks in the legal system—from particular jurors being suspiciously discharged (much to the convenience of the prosecution), to the defence counsel squabbling with the Chicago 7 (when they were not busy squabbling with themselves). As the trial’s publicity builds, the politics and temperament of each participant becomes less extractable from what is seen as right and wrong. The nature of protest and the fallibility of the justice system are shown at their extremes; and, up until the very end, we sit questioning what rewards are worth contending for if they have to be collected through violence. 

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