The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
October 22, 2020 10:15 AM - Subscribe

The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

Now streaming on Netflex, a dramatization of the events of trial of the Chicago 7 - Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) and John Frones (Daniel Flaherty) - for incitement to riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Directed by Aaron Sorkin, this is the 4th film adaptation of the events of the trial (previous films - Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 (1987); Chicago 10 (2008); and The Chicago 8 (2011)).

Confused about the different numbers? The eighth defendant, Bobby Seale (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is later separated from the other 7 for his own trial, under circumstances best left to be seen. The Chicago 10 is used to describe all eight defendants plus the two lawyers.

The film also features performances from:
-Mark Rylance as defense counsel William Kunstler;
-Ben Shenkman as defense counsel Leonard Weinglass;
-Joesph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz, federal prosecutor;
-Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman;
and smaller roles for J.C. MacKenzie, Michael Keaton, John Doman, Caitlin FitzGerald.
posted by nubs (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Very Sorkin-esque, and he takes some license with how things happened at the trial, but I found it interesting for learning more about the history of what happened in 1968.
posted by nubs at 10:16 AM on October 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sorkin writing Abbie Hoffman & Tom Hayden is pretty much a match made in heaven.

I enjoyed it, but I freely admit I'm a huge Sorkin fan. And it ran a bit long. Rylance in particular is great.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:02 PM on October 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Apologies, somehow commented about en entirely different show. deleteing.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:18 AM on October 23, 2020

I too enjoy Sorkin, and enjoyed the film; lots of great dialogue, though apparently the trial itself is pretty good source material.
posted by nubs at 10:02 AM on October 23, 2020

I'm skeptical of mixed-up timelines, a thing most filmmakers do to jazz up material they think is boring. It worked great here. That said, my mediocre knowledge of American history 1955-1995 included only the understanding that the 1968 Democratic Convention turned violent, so the skip between the lead-up (barely connected persons pursuing different goals in the lead-up to the protest) to the trial (complete with the two patsies that didn't even make the opening montage) introduced just the right amount of mystery to easy the transition between REVOLUTION and courtroom drama. (And it was fun to get to meet the defendants before learning the dramatically exciting bit that Hayden be the one responsible for so much of the actionable evidence against the protesters, though presumably some of that was embellished by Sorkin?)

Overall, I really enjoyed it -- but with a mind to its relevance, I also liked the Verge's take that "The Trial of the Chicago 7 doesn’t know who its villain is." In short, the movie ends with a general sense that everything works out okay: Bobby Seale gets off, the 7 (and their legal representation) get their convictions and fines overturned, and the Good Government Figures like FBI Undercover Lady and Joseph Gordon Levitt secretly disdain the farce of a trial. The problem is, after four years of Cabinet-level figures who are off-the-record "angry and appalled" at their president's actions, I'm...God, I dunno, how do you convince yourself that the Joseph Gordon Levitt character is an okay guy if you've been paying a modicum of attention to the Trump administration's DOJ? How do you feel good about a tale where a politically motivated attack was only abandoned after getting slapped down in a higher court when you know that those same courts are increasingly riddled with political goons?

So...yeah. Mixed feelings, but I enjoyed watching it.
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:37 PM on October 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

I’m sure the timing of Sorkin doing this film is very much tied to the current environment, but yeah, it is very bloodless in terms of not really drawing out the dangers of politically motivated prosecutions more strongly.
posted by nubs at 10:53 AM on October 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

very good. sbc's best performance, imho. I'm no historian, but I'm pretty well-read and it matches the outline of events as i recall.

last seven minutes were just too over the top, even the soundtrack turns saccharine and ridiculous.

still, i liked it and told my kids to watch it.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:21 PM on October 29, 2020

This movie was bad!! Bad, bad, bad! I'm as susceptible to a rousing soundtrack as anyone, and I was definitely crying at the extremely dumb and manipulative and fake ending. I can't help it - the dumb soundtracks are like a tearduct on switch for me. I was definite cheering - against my will! For Abbie and for Bobby. This movie does exactly what it intends to do! Very effectively! The acting was mostly pretty good! I too wanted my kid to watch it as I was watching, despite also swearing at it, as I was watching. Like, this is an entertaining movie, but it's about nothing! Like, if you want people to take away a valuable lesson for today, what the hell would it be?

Despite it's successfully emotionally manipulative qualities, my emotion watching it was escalating rage: I can't believe in 2020 we're still making movies about 'the sixties' that pretend women were mere props in the movement, ignore the formative influence of both the Black civil rights movement and the Communist Party USA on all organizing of that period, and tack happy endings on a decade that ended with mass arrests and murders. The Chicago 7 trial was part of a sweeping effort to harass, arrest or kill activists around the country. Also seemed dumb to make Tom Hayden into the adventurist!?

We need more complicated mythology for this current age.

Trying to remember the name of this movie so I could come rant about it here, I realized how many screen adaptations there are of this trial. A good (but to me likely torturous) project would be to watch them all and compare and contrast. Probably the only way you could do the trial justice would be to have house cats or claymation vegetables or something dramatize it?
posted by latkes at 1:27 PM on December 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I really liked parts of this movie but I'm pretty fucking incensed about the treatment of Dellinger. How fucking dare they show someone who dedicated his life to pacifism and non-violence punching someone.
posted by Carillon at 10:11 PM on January 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

I thought the film was enjoyable but every single thing I have read about it since has angered me.

There is no reason to deviate from the true events as much as this does - none. Why do this? Why portray the prosecutor Joseph Gordon Levitt plays as a good guy just following orders, when he was a piece of shit? Why underplay how shockingly racist the whole thing was - Bobby Seale was bound and gagged for three fucking days.
posted by graventy at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

Just watched this, so I'm late to the commenting party. But yes- @graventy- what happened to Seale is the part that sticks with me the most. That is happened is bad enough. That it lasted THREE DAYS is abominable on a level I can't even begin to articulate. That the film did not make this crystal clear is fucking inexcusable.

A parallel with 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests feels direct. An election year, to boot. The election outcome in '68 must have been influenced by these events, but probably not in the way the activists intended. Seeing hippies rioting on their TV screens likely made buttoned-down voting America turn the other way; and voila- there's Nixon. Did the activists' intent backfire to the degree that so much subsequent Republican control happened? Maybe. Does that make it their fault? I don't know. Did the opposite happen in 2020? Seems like it. That Verge article is good. If anyone can point me to any additional worthwhile commentary comparing/contrasting these two situations, I'd appreciate it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:45 AM on April 19, 2021

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