The pressure is on when you have a film like The Trial Of The Chicago 7 which parallels modern America even being set around a true story from 1968. There are protesters clashing against the police, a black man singled out to have an unfair chance in the legal system and crooked practitioners of law who uphold that system in this story of seven men who are on trial for conspiracy and riot incitement charges. Director and writer Aaron Sorkin drops us down to the legal proceedings right from the get go, occasionally flashing back to the moments that lead the men to the courtroom. It’s a very demanding piece of work, both from filmmaking and subject matter perspective, so it’s impressive to see that most of it is delivered in style while only being a bit over-directed at times.
What in the biggest way makes ”Chicago 7” really engaging is the magnificent cast who even despite being mostly big names in the game, overcome all the high expectations to turn in great performances one after another. I could have a 1000-word review about them alone so it hurts just to point out few here. Jeremy Strong (as Jerry Rubin) is the biggest stand-out followed by Mark Rylance (William Kunstler), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Bobby Seale), Sacha Baron Cohen (Abbie Hoffman) and Frank Lagnella (Judge Hoffman). There is always incredible acting happening on the screen which is astounding for a two-hour film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the cast pick up an ensemble award in upcoming award season, in the same breath the casting deserves one too for getting all the right actors to show up.
Something one might not expect from a legal drama is a better sense of humour and timing than many of the comedies of this year. I found myself constantly amused by funny quips thrown around, mostly from Cohen and Strong. Those moments are what makes Sorkin’s script soar, the heavier moments (like someone being shackled and gagged) hit harder when there’s just enough counterbalance. The script’s flashbacks also work well since they don’t let the legal jargon get too boring.
Sorkin’s directing on the other hand could’ve used some of those dynamics because the film can appear as too polished. All of the clever dialogue is delivered too perfectly considering the stakes, nothing seems to happen spontaneously and most of all Daniel Pemberton’s score is trying to force you to feel instead of being present. This is a recurring thing as ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Enola Holmes’ also felt uninspired from a musical standpoint while ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Spider-Verse’ worked because of the emphasis on the soundtrack rather than on the score.
Smileys: Performance by a cast, screenplay, humour, casting
There really is a whole buddy comedy starring Strong and Cohen inside this drama film. Just throwing that out there.