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The Trial of the Chicago 7 Review- Just another courtroom drama?

Updated: May 28, 2021

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a historical courtroom drama that is based on the infamous 1969 trial of a group of anti–Vietnam War protesters charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

In order to express the growing unrest and dissatisfaction of the people with the War, activists like the moderate ‘Students for a Democratic Society’ led by Tom Hayden, and the radical ‘Yippies’ led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, staged a protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. However, the intended peaceful protest turns into a violent confrontation with the police and local authorities. As a result, eight of the leaders are prosecuted on charges like Conspiracy by the hostile Nixon administration, who want to use them to make examples of what will happen to dissenters of the War. This includes Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers who was not actually involved in the incident.

What follows is a notorious trial presided by the clearly prejudiced Judge Hoffman and prosecuted by a reluctant Richard Schultz. As their pro-bono lawyers try their best to work in an openly hostile courtroom, tension builds as Hayden and his group are frustrated by the Yippies' unprofessional actions that dent their defense while the Yippies try to make the trial more about the war than just their prosecution. All this while Seale is denied a chance at a fair trial. Along the way, the Chicago 7 clash in their political beliefs in relation to the ideal way to rise up in defiance of the system even as they learn they need to work together to create their revolution.

The Trial of The Chicago 7 is captivating, powerful and almost poetic, given the current tides in the political sphere. The film shows the events of the protest in flashbacks as the trial inches on. While there are moments of humor and witty banter, there are also hauntingly impactful scenes- such as when Bobby Seale is tied and gagged up under the order of the toeing-evil Judge Hoffman, or the rhythmic chants of Americans on the street shouting “The whole world is watching”, and especially the final moments of the trial, when Hayden uses his closing remarks to name the 4,752 soldiers who were killed in the Vietnam War since the trial began.

Everyone knows how the trial, in the end, is simply a farce and that the charges against the defendants is purely the result of political vendetta. Sorkin’s at times unnervingly smooth screenplay often makes the stakes seem lower than they are, especially with the constant opposing personalities, but are later re-emphasized with the flashbacks of the injured protestors and the ever-increasing death toll to remind viewers not to forget what this trial is

really about.

The cast work off each other extremely well, and despite its long run, the different timelines ensure that the film doesn’t drag. The film is quick-paced, intelligent and intense. It is also eerily successful in giving a reflection of how the events of the 1960s parallels with today’s political turmoil. In the end, The Trial of the Chicago 7 serves as a stark reminder of the effects of a corrupt bureaucracy in troubling times while also celebrating the people who stand against it.

If you havent seen the trailer for The Trial of the Chicago 7, check it out below-

-By Annapoorna Narayan, Writer for TheLucidLlama

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