Aaron Sorkin’s new Netflix political courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a fairly solid film. Not totally adept at anything, the film also contains no serious mistakes, making it a very mediocre piece of cinema.
The film tells the story of the controversial and very politicized trial of eight individuals involved in the 1968 protests and subsequent riots in Chicago. The story is an interesting one, and the film tells it from the perspectives of the men on trial.
It’s the kind of film designed to make you mad, intended more than anything else to incite outrage in its audience. It portrays the horrible injustice of the notorious trial, demands its audience gets angry about the unfairness unfolding onscreen and makes a political statement about the nature of our democracy and justice system.
Written and directed by legendary screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, best known for creating and writing the sharp political drama “The West Wing” and the movie “The Social Network,” “The Trial of The Chicago 7’s” main strengths include the well-written script and witty dialogue as well as the all-star cast, which includes Michael Keaton, Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Frank Langella.
While the film’s writing is solid, its acting occasionally powerful and its political messages potent, there’s not much else that’s interesting about the movie. In fact, it’s quite forgettable. Most of the film takes place in a courtroom, and while there are some impactful scenes, Sorkin doesn’t flesh out his characters enough in the courtroom or outside it to make them truly relatable. Many of the courtroom scenes feel repetitive, and there’s not enough going on outside of it to give the legal drama any real weight.
Furthermore, the cinematography can be best described as bland. The real-life trial of the Chicago seven was undoubtedly an immensely important political and historical event, but aside from a few key scenes, little of that significance can be felt here. It seems wrong to dismiss a historic criminal trial of prominent political protestors as insignificant, but the film is just too unremarkable to elicit any lingering reaction or emotion, save for the temporary outrage certain scenes draw from the audience.
Overall, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a well-written, well-acted, timely piece of cinema intended to incite political outrage. It succeeds at that task in parts, but fails to become a good film on the larger scale. It is forgettable, its characters are ultimately underdeveloped and it becomes repetitive in its endeavor to portray the depth of injustice the historical figures were subjected to. The film isn’t a waste of time, but it’s not something you’re likely to remember watching in six months.