Finnegan On Films: Compelling Performances In ‘The Trial Of The Chicago 7’

Posted by


James Finnegan says Aaron Sorkin’s gets the best out of a wonderful cast in ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7′ which plays at the Omniplex this week

I understand that this film has been thirteen years in development.  It is hard to imagine any other time during this period where current affairs and a film interpretation of an historical event could rhyme so closely.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was the scene of a series of substantial civic disturbances over the Vietnam War, Civil Rights and other political counterculture activities.

Continued below…


The reaction of the Chicago police was brutal and indiscriminate.  The turbulence of that time continues to reverberate in current political life and its ripple effect was, and is, felt around the world.

This film is the story of how this motley crew gathered selection of individuals were charged with incitement to riot and conspiracy in what could only be described as a show trial.

‘The Trial Of The Chicago 7’.

This is not a team of like-minded team mates.  They neither like nor trust each other, although they are all idealists, but do you change the system from within, or by more radical efforts?

I doubt there is anyone better than Aaron Sorkin to transcribe these events into a film script.

He is totally at home in the courtroom setting as befits the man behind ‘A Few Good Men’ and ‘The West Wing’.  Some would say that he has a tendency to use six words where two or three would do, but that’s like complaining that Mozart uses too many notes.

The combination of the re-enactments and original footage of events may not always come off, but his direction enables his ensemble cast to achieve a uniformly excellent standard.

Sacha Baron Cohen as the ultra radical Abbie Hoffman gives his best movie performance yet whereas Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden (later to become a US Senator) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) are perfect counterpoints in approach and attitude.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) is Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers, and was added to the defendants in a blatant attempt to negatively influence public opinion.

His treatment during the trial has enhanced resonances with recent events and is as shocking as it was unlawful.

Their Defence Attorney is played in a much understated manner by Mark Rylance, who in his own clever way subverts authority as the story progresses.

The trial is presided over by Judge Julius Hoffman (yes, the same name as one of the defendants, but as far away from the same family tree as is possible to imagine).

He is brilliantly and chillingly played by Frank Langella. There is no attempt to hide his character’s contempt for the defendants, here in his own personal courtroom fiefdom.

At one stage, another Defendant Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) states “This is the Academy Awards of protests, and it’s an honour to be nominated”.

I suspect this is a line that will be repeated on numerous occasions and categories from both sides of the camera in the coming weeks and months.   Enjoy and stay safe.

Comments are closed.