23rd October 2020

Trial Of Chicago 7 Review: It Blends Brilliancy With The Bland

The Trial  Of  The  Chicago 7(Netflix)

Starring  Eddie Redmayne , Noah Robbins,Mark Rylance,Alex Sharp,Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II,Sacha Baron Cohen,Daniel Flaherty,Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Michael Keaton,Frank Langella,John Carroll Lynch

Directed  by Aaron Sorkin

Rating: *** ½ 

 This  remarkable testimony to the spirit  of  humanism  freedom and democracy, so relevant to us in this country, comes to us  accompanied  by so  much validation and panegyric , one is wary  of  expressing reservations on the  films’s  level of excellence. After all, we are  living in times when the  voice of  dissent is quickly ridiculed  insulted and thwarted

Which is  hugely ironical  , really. Considering The Trial Of  The Chicago 7 is all about  letting the voice  of dissent grow.We don’t have to agree on  the  precincts  of democracy. Likewise we don’t have to be one on the   merits of  a film on the precincts  of democracy  either. 

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So all  right. Let me be the  first to say this is a remarkable film, exceptional in its commitment to recreating the trial of  the 7(actually, 8) men who were tried by the American government as anti-national for protesting against the butchering of  young American soldiers  in  Vietnam

The  moral equations, I thought, are  too  prettily  laid out in  the trial-and-error  format.The  anti-war protestors are  given to swaggering tendencies, inhouse  brawls among themselves at their headquarters  (ironically named  ‘The Conspiracy  Office’),  while  the  bad boys from Nixon’s blackened White House  remain true to  character: forever snarky, sneaky secretive and somewhat slimy.  

Given  the brutal moral alignments  of the  plot,  I  found  the  pro-Establishment  performers  far more brilliant in their thankless roles,  specially veteran  Frank Langella as the nakedly prejudiced judge at the  trial.

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The  seven defendants, joined by a  Black man(Yahya Abdul-Mateen 2,in a role  first offered to Will Smith)  who is wrongly clubbed(literally) with the  rest   of the  war haters,  don’t  even have to make an impression. The inbuilt power strength and glory of their roles puts the actors on the front foot from the start.This is not to say that they don’t excel beyond their written parts. They do. In fact the main  players specially Sacha Baron Cohen(who plays a hippie youth leader) and Mark Rylance( as  a defence  lawyer)  give  award-worthy  performances.

The  film is   shot in  pronounced  but unostentatious  hues. The  end of the 1960s era emerges  not through  punctuated periodicity but through the  mood of  the moment: volatile, aggressive, unforgiving.

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Look out for The Trial Of  The  Chicago 7 at the Oscars next year. Many critics have  already labeled  it the year’s best. I wouldn’t go that  far. The  work is definitely outstanding. But quite often it  swings between brilliancy and borderline  blandness. And yes ,where are the female  characters ? Probably powdering their noses while the men fight out a future-decisive battle in  the courtroom.

 Even in  a film that’s  all about radical change,some things never change.

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