In Chicago 1968, the Democratic Party Convention was met with protests from activists like the moderate Students for a Democratic Society led by Tom Hayden and the militant Yippies led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, which led to violent confrontations with the local authorities. As a result, seven of the accused ringleaders are arraigned on charges like Conspiracy by the hostile Nixon administration, including Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers who was not involved in the incident. What follows is an unfair trial presided by the belligerent Judge Hoffman (No relation) and prosecuted by a reluctant but duty-bound Richard Schultz. As their pro bono lawyers face such odds, Hayden and his fellows are frustrated by the Yippies' outrageous antics undermining their defense in defiance of the system even while Seale is denied a chance to defend himself his way. Along the way, the Chicago 7 clash in their political philosophies even as they learn they need each other in this fight.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden are introduced, and they discuss their plans to a classroom full of students, an obvious tiling effect was implemented to the class. Several students who are seen down below can also be seen near the top simultaneously. See more »
Are we using the trial to defend ourselves against very serious charges that could land us in prison for ten years, or to say a pointless "fuck you" to the establishment?
That is what I was afraid... Wait, I don't know if you were saying "fuck you" or answering.
...I was also confused.
See more »
Legal historians and courtroom drama fans will have a field day with this Aaron Sorkin film which depicts the trial of eight radical protesters who made a name for themselves in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. A disparate array of left-wing activists who took it upon themselves to demand an end to the Vietnam War instead became involved in the ghastly legal aftermath of the riots and thus faced criminal charges for allegedly instigating the violence. This film portrays the sham trial that took place.
Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, who has not been in anything good for a long time, is solid as the lead federal prosecutor who reluctantly takes on the assignment of trying to put the radical protesters behind bars. Mark Rylance's modest, down-to-earth demeanor makes him a rather peculiar fit to portray defense attorney William Kuntsler, the famous defense attorney well-known for his outspoken courtroom oratory and publicity hound antics. Frank Langella is flawless as Julius Hoffman, the judge who presided over this trial and whose combustible temper and tenuous mental faculties made him a ready target for ridicule from many, including those involved in the case. Edie Redmayne is excellent as Tom Hayden, the more pragmatic but equally passionate protester and defendant. Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong are both stellar as defendants Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, respectively. Finally, Yahya Abdul Mateen II is eloquent as Bobby Seale, a Black Panther Party co-founder and the lone African-American defendant in the case.
There are discreet details about the trial I was hoping the film would cover. There is no mention of Bobby Seale's many colorful nicknames he assigned to the judge. It mentions the poet Alan Ginsberg only as a fellow protester, when in fact he was also called as one of several celebrity witnesses. So was the musician Judy Collins who began singing an anti-war song during her testimony. These, however, are minor oversights because the fundamental essence of this circus of a trial is effectively captured in the film. Unlike much of Sorkin's earlier work, the dialogue in this film is less grandiose and more straightforward. There are less pyrotechnics and more re-creation here. I mean that as a compliment. It's the perfect portrayal of a trial which turned out to be a low point in the history of American jurisprudence. It also expertly captures the schism within the American left and how the idealists and pragmatists often locked horns even back in the 1960s. Gripping, frightening and instructive in today's world, it is not to be missed. Highly recommended to all.
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