The Trial of the Chicago 7: Brilliant Depiction of the Story of Seven Activists


Photo courtesy of Netflix

Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece “The Trial of the Chicago 7” depicts the story of seven individuals charged with inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. 

In 1968 the Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago and the country was inflamed. The U.S. was deep into the Vietnam War and protests continued to take place around the U.S., Linden B. Johnson decided he would not run for re-election and Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated. In short, between a push to get out of a deadly war, heightened racial tensions and an election that was hotly contested, America was a place of chaos.

Based on a true story, this beautiful and suspenseful film paints the picture of seven anti-war activists as heroes up against the corrupt machine that is the federal government. You would expect nothing less coming from Sorkin who created the progressive political show, “The West Wing.” Sorkin focused on the trial of the activists rather than the deadly and bloody riots of 1968. The similarities between 1968 and 2020 are rather disturbing.  

The seven men charged were Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) the leaders of the Youth International Party (Yippies), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) and Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) of MOBE and Students for Democratic Society (SDS), John Foinces (John Froines) and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins). Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) the Leader of the Black Panthers was also charged with inciting a riot, but his trial was later deemed a mistrial.

This powerhouse cast will take your breath away with every thought provoking sentence they speak. They each found a unique way to bring out their character’s personality throughout the case. Mateen II emitted such rage due to the oppression Seal was facing from the judge; Cohen used his wit and charm to embrace the hilarity Hoffman displayed in the courtroom;  Redmayne unveiled the righteous intellect from Hayden brilliantly.

Photo courtesy of Netflix (NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020)

At the beginning of the film it shows the seven men heading to Chicago to protest the war, during one of the most important weekends of 1968, the Democratic National Convention. They set up their protests in Grant Park, right across the street from the convention. 

The courtroom drama is without a doubt a metaphor for America’s current political climate. The way Seale was treated by Judge Hoffman represents the oppression black people still face in the United States. 

From the beginning of the trial, the judge was not a fan of the seven activists. He held the group in a total of 159 counts of contempt throughout the trial. A lot of them weren’t even serious charges, he held many of them in compet because of sarcastic tones and innocent laughter. 

Black Panther, Bobby Seale, got the worst of it. There was a harrowing scene where Hoffman ordered him to be gagged (towel in his mouth) and shackled in the middle of trial for “speaking out of turn” and “disrupting the court.” His trial was deemed a mistrial and the charges were dropped. 

The film got even more relevant when Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were killed by police. Then the people protesting those deaths were met with nightsticks, tear gas and rubber bullets like the protesters of 1968.  

Sorkin truly uses The Trial of the Chicago 7 to compare then and now. It shows the epidemic our country is facing with racism and police violence. America was in flames then and still is now.