The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (****)

Writer/Director: Aaron Sorkin. Casrt: Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella.

This handsome, star-studded, award contender and crowd pleaser comes with its fair share of controversy for what has or has not been altered to the real event. But it’s obviously that Sorkin (here both writer and director) is more interested in the relevance to the story today, making the all too easy connections between the past and present that actual accuracy: “look how free speech is being threatened by an incompetent government” he seems to be screaming at us.

He is not subtle, nor has he ever been (“You can’t handle the truth!!), but if there is one person who knows how to keep his audience glued to their seats with the “simple” power of the stirring dialogue, drenched with ping pong slick exchanges, quick remarks, smart jokes and gripping erudite monologues, that’s Aaron Sorkin.

He’s obviously completely at ease with the material. He is after all a veteran when it comes to both court room dramas and politics.

Less inspired is his direction, which is fairly static and a bit too conventional (One wonders what Spielberg would have done with this script, as he was supposed to direct it a few years ago, but then passed it on to Sorkin himself). But who care when you have a stellar cast like this one? They could be reading from a script sitting around a table and it would still work.

I wasn’t quite sure about the structure of the film either, in fact I don’t think the cross-cutting with all those flashbacks made it any better, but maybe it was needed to alternate those dialogue scenes in the trial with something less word-heavy.

I don’t think I would have had any problem if the story had been told in a linear way, but then again, I’m a sucker for this kind of things… and I have a bit of a crash for Sorkin, despite all his faults. Yes his characters might be a bit cold, at times they all speak with the same voice and some of their words are just too perfect to be true dialogue coming out of a human being, but the core message is what counts here and that one comes across loud and clear. And by the time the ending came along, complete with a moment so reminiscent of the “Captain my captain” scene from “Dead Poets Society” I was completely WITH the film, IN the film and FOR the film.

On Netflix

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