The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) – on demand

The Trial of the Chicago 7‘s all-star cast enlivens and sharpens the points of Aaron Sorkin‘s docudrama of a historic court case intended to destroy the ’60s counterculture.

Open and Shut

by Alexa Dalby

The Trial of the Chicago 7!–/imdb–>

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is based on the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy and more and facing prison, arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The trial transfixed the nation and sparked a conversation about mayhem intended to undermine the US government.

The trial was politically motivated, partly intended to damage the countercultural movement by jailing its figureheads.

The main defendant activists are divided by their response to the trial. Clean-cut idealist, student leader Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) encourage peaceful protests.

Hayden disagrees with the stoner stunts of Yippies Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and co-defendant Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), intellectuals who believe in disrupting the system.

Older radical pacifist, family man David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) is a boy scout leader.

But originally there were the Chicago 8, the eighth being Black Panther Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Fred Hampton (Kelvin Harrison Jr) makes a very brief appearance in court.

Forced to represent himself and denying a connection to the protests, Seale is removed from court and return gagged, bound and shackled for the remainder of the trial, until his trial is eventually declared a mistrial. To see this racist humiliation now by the out-of-his-depth Judge Hoffman (Frank Langella) is gasp=out-loud shocking and yet sadly resonant in the present-day brutal treatment and killings of African Americans.

Mark Rylance is the seven defendant’s mqin lawyer William Kunstler, increasingly exasperated and angry as the mismanaged trial disintegrates.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is available on demand on numerous digital platforms. The film has received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Sacha Baron Cohen, and Best Original Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, to be determined at the Oscars on 25 April 2021. It also received 3 British Academy Film Awards nominations, 5 Golden Globes Awards nominations, and 3 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

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