In 1968, different groups opposed to the Vietnam War came together in a big protest in Chicago, where the Democratic National Convention was taking place – an event that announced the candidacy of Hubert H. Humphrey to the presidency. Things got out of hand, there was turmoil and someone had to pay for it. The government’s decision was to accuse a select group of people of conspiracy in a trial that went down in the country’s history. This historic event is the raw material of The Chicago 7, historical drama of Aaron Sorkin on Netflix, who takes advantage of his stellar cast in a powerful plot that extends beyond the walls of the court.
Due to the great coverage by the press, the Chicago protests had the slogan “the whole world is watching”. In his second film as a director, renowned screenwriter Aaron Sorkin uses that same maxim to make The Chicago 7 not only understood, but felt, by viewers from anywhere in the world. This intention is clear right away, when the quick assembly explains in a matter of minutes the social instability that led to the famous turmoil.
With the inspired soundtrack of Daniel Pemberton in the background, the film presents each of the main members of the “Conspiracy Gang” with the same highlight of great events like the Vietnam War itself and the murders of Martin Luther King Jr e Robert Kennedy. The message is clear: the film is indeed about the historical importance of that judgment, but it is especially about the people who promoted it all.
After positioning each of these pieces and getting them ready for the confrontation, Sorkin advances in time and goes straight to the trial, resuming each of the events that led those eight men – who in the course of the trial would become seven – to court. In no discreet way, Sorkin resumes the narrative used in The social network, which also uses flashbacks in scenes of legal dispute between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and its former partners Facebook. In addition to moving the story forward without the need for tedious dialogues, this choice opens up space for its strong cast to shine, growing as the film approaches its internal differences.
Se os yippies Abbie Hoffman (Sasha Baron Cohen) e Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) take the more radical side, Tom hayden (Eddie Redmayne) e Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) prefer a more “clean” approach, which complements the non-violent conduct of David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch). On the side of the accused, the highlight is on account of Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), co-founder of the Match two Black Panthers, whose presence is essential even if less directly than the other participants.
Aware of the strength of these characters – and this is where the inspired interpretation of Mark Rylance for the defense attorney William Kunstler -, a narrative of The Chicago 7 takes advantage of its different facets to deliver a powerful drama. Although the script sometimes weighs the hand when typifying some of the characters to create – and even force – moments of redemption or surprise, the production makes each of the names involved count. And that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the attorney Richard Schultz, and especially the Michael Keaton as the former attorney general Ramsey Clark. For different reasons, the duo has less screen time, but fulfills its narrative purpose in a more than competent way.
In his career as a screenwriter, Sorkin has proven several times that he knows how to tell stories based on facts. More than reporting how Facebook was created (The social network) or how a businessman revolutionized a baseball team (The Man Who Changed the Game), their stories have the clear objective of moving and entertaining in the first place. Because of this, it is not strange to come across poetic licenses that enhance the dramatic effect. In The Chicago 7 it is no different, as personalities and events are shaped to suit the plot, not the other way around.
The same can be said about the themes of the film, which does not happen by chance on Netflix during the election season in the United States. From the scene when Richard Schultz is tasked with leading the lawsuit against the Chicago seven to the final credits, Sorkin has a clear mission to emphasize how democracy and freedoms are threatened by government abuse. And this is where the show of The Chicago 7 it closes its cycle when it uses an event from the past as a kind of manifesto for a better future. Although this message goes well for American viewers, it is a message that also goes well with the rest of the world – which is definitely watching.
The Chicago 7
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Chicago 7
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Country: United States
Classification: 16 years
Duration: 129 min
Direction: Aaron Sorkin
Script: Aaron Sorkin
List: Sasha Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong