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Review Roundup: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, Written and Directed by Aaron Sorkin

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 is now open in select theaters, before coming to Netflix on October 16.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is now open in select theaters, before coming to Netflix on October 16.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a 2020 American legal drama film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.

The film follows the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

It features an ensemble cast that includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong.

Let's see what the critics are saying...


A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "The Trial of the Chicago 7" is a mixed bag. While Sorkin draws some of his dialogue from court transcripts, he also exercises the historical dramatist's prerogative to embellish, streamline and invent. Some of the liberties he takes help to produce a leaner, clearer story, while others - an undercover F.B.I. agent (Caitlin Fitzgerald) who tries to honey-trap Rubin; a shot of female protesters burning their bras in Grant Park - serve no useful purpose.

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: The script saves some of its most fiery material for them, the kind of thunderbolt Sorkin-isms that land with a satisfying crack. Though it allows them to inhabit quieter moments, too, and the movie is at its best when it roots itself in the real consequences of the case - not only for the men involved, but for a nation increasingly unable to bridge its most painful divides. In that, Chicago 7 frames the past not just as entertaining prologue but a living document; one we ignore at our own peril.

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune: I enjoyed it, though a few things hold it back from greatness or really-goodness. Sorkin's a more interesting writer than he is a director. At times he seems to be aping Steven Spielberg's momentous-history pictorial approach, which can work marvelously if it's Spielberg, in the case of "Lincoln," for example. Once upon a time Spielberg commissioned Sorkin to write a Chicago 7 trial movie for him, and the result, all these years later, is this one.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: But again and again, scenes and lines land with a solemn clunk. Minor and major figures, played by minor and major stars, show up with their characters' names grandly flashed up on screen and the drama simply hasn't earned their presumed aura of glamorous historical importance. And when something really important and dramatic happens - namely, the extraordinarily spiteful gagging of Bobby Seale - the padding of all this courtroom waffle and progressive concern muffles the shock. "Can you breathe?" someone asks Seale from the public gallery. It's a question intended to resonate with the BLM age, but this can only provoke the issue of whether the whole film should not really have been centrally about Seale: the Chicago One.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Sorkin has made a movie that's gripping, illuminating and trenchant, as erudite as his best work and always grounded first and foremost in story and character. It's as much about the constitutional American right to protest as it is about justice, which makes it incredibly relevant to where we are today, and to what's at stake in the coming election. The final note of defiance here offers a glimmer of hope for which many of us are starved right now. I'll take it.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire: Made by Paramount and tossed to Netflix in the pandemic uncertainty of 2020, "Chicago 7" isn't exactly a groundbreaking vision, but it's certainly a passion project of the "they DON'T make 'em like they used to" variety. It could have been made a few years after the Chicago 7 faced their fate and fit its moment, but registers as particularly robust now: Sorkin proves that courtrooms have always been at the mercy of a flawed process, yet subject to moral scrutiny at every turn. A look back at rabble-rousers from another era won't change the world, but "Chicago 7" is a solid tribute to a few men who realized they could, even when the system they fought for came up short.

Stephanie Zachareck, Time: The Trial of the Chicago 7 reminds us of the chant that arose from the Chicago protestors as the police descended upon them with batons and, some sources have indicated, gloved fists fortified with metal: "The whole world is watching." At what point do you look away? The Trial of the Chicago 7 details events that happened more than 50 years ago. The time to look away is never.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety: The performances are rich, avid, juicy, and, in several cases, memorable. Sacha Baron Cohen may be a head taller than the real Abbie Hoffman, but he catches the exuberance of Hoffman's rascal Jewish charisma - the haughty Boston accent and fun-loving literacy, and the moral gravity that centered everything he said. Eddie Redmayne, pale with gravitas, makes Tom Hayden the slightly uptight soul of the New Left, and John Carroll Lynch, as Dellinger, has one of the most moving moments in the film when he lets down his pacifist guard and slugs a court official. A delectable actor I won't name plays Ramsey Clarke, the previous (uncorrupt) attorney general, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II invests Bobby Seale with an incendiary awareness of how a rotting legal system is out to railroad him.

Steve Pond, The Wrap: This is a movie that relies a lot on accelerating tension, on build-it-up and stretch-it-out sequences with similar pacing, on revealing a little more each time we return to the park or the streets. And in between the courtroom scenes and the flashbacks and the growing tension between Tom Hayden and Abbie Hoffman, it's a thoroughly satisfying drama whose emotional climax hinges on an implied possessive pronoun, of all things.

A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club: The Trial Of The Chicago 7 wants to bottle the revolutionary spirit of its setting-the take-to-the-streets idealism of the '60s-but its snappy montage-glimpses of demonstrations verge on costume-party kitsch. The movie is at its best and most persuasive in the courtroom, when Sorkin can draw on the clashes of ideology and personality.

Richard Roeper, The Chicago Sun-Times: Certain events are rearranged from the factual timelines, and yes, "The Trial of the Chicago 7" exercises poetic license. This is not a documentary; it's a dramatization of events that resonates with great power while containing essential truths, and it's one of the best movies of the year.

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