Netflix’s new offering “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is without a doubt the best film released this year thus far. Now there have been some solid films released this year such as Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” Antonio Campos’ “The Devil All the Time” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (which will all probably garner some recognition from the Academy through Oscar nominations), but no film is as strong as Aaron Sorkin’s new Netflix feature.
Many may know Sorkin from his work in creating the hit television series “The West Wing,” or his Oscar-winning screenwriting for critically acclaimed films such as “The Social Network,” “Moneyball” and “A Few Good Men.” It’s safe to say that Sorkin is one of the best screenwriters in the industry today. Only recently has he gotten into directing films, this being his second ever (his first was the Jessica Chastain-helmed “Molly’s Game”), but he is no stranger to the camera, having directed many television shows.
From the first frame, this film pulls you in. It starts with a montage of the historical media buildup to the event this film covers, the trial of the Chicago Seven. In doing so, they edit real-life footage, like media statements of politicians and pundits, with footage of the characters of the movie. This adds to the realness of the picture, making sure the viewers are aware this was a very real event.
There are many things that make this film great, one of them being Sorkin’s masterful writing. The man simply has a knack for writing drama. Sorkin, in interviews, often speaks about intention and obstacle and their role in dramatic storytelling. In this film, intention and obstacle surround the entire storyline. In terms of plot, the storyline is sort of non-linear though it follows the three-act plot structure quite well. The first act does a brilliant job setting up the stakes and the characters, whilst the second and third pays off those stakes and develops the characters further. Sorkin’s writing ability is crazy good, as the tempo and pacing of every line is so articulately orchestrated that it just feels different than other films.
However, much of the praise given to Sorkin is also due to the brilliant performances delivered by the actors in the film. Top to bottom, the cast is fantastic. Three performances really stand out: Eddie Redmayne’s, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II’s and Sacha Baron Cohen’s.
Because of the sparseness of the Oscar field this year, I can almost guarantee that two of these actors will be nominated. Those two I believe will be Baron Cohen and Redmayne. Abdul-Mateen II’s performance is great but his role in the film is smaller than Baron Cohen and Redmayne’s.
Baron Cohen is well known for his comedy chops in films such as “Borat” and “The Dictator.” While his performance does have a comedic aspect, this is definitely one of his more dramatic roles. Portraying the leader of the Youth International Party, Abbie Hoffman, Baron Cohen delivers an interesting accent that may put off some. Nonetheless, he captures the energy of the character spectacularly, and is definitely one of the shining stars of the film. I expect him to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, though he probably won’t win.
Redmayne portrays anti-war activist Tom Hayden in this film and does so quite well. Redmayne is already in possession of an Academy Award, winning for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” There is one scene in the picture that really showcases Redmayne’s performance as Hayden as he really shows off his acting abilities. Sorkin’s fast-paced dialogue is difficult to deliver and in that one scene he does so quite effectively. I expect him to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, though he currently is behind Delroy Lindo (who gave an absolutely fantastic performance in “Da 5 Bloods”) in who will win for that category.
There is also no denying how thematically resonant this film is for today’s era. Its whole plot surrounds the suppression of beliefs and the right to protest, two things that are major aspects of the cultural conversation today. Watching this film, which is set in 1968, will remind you of our current climate and may lead some people to change their perspective on our modern issues. In totality, due to the fantastic writing and direction of Sorkin and the brilliant acting performances by essentially the whole cast, this film earns a strong recommendation. Everyone should watch this film.