The whole world is watching! This chant runs throughout Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and serves as the overall moral of the film.
Based on real events, The Chicago 7 explores the infamous 1960s trial of seven anti-Vietnam protestors for multiple dubious charges such as conspiracy and inciting a riot.
The trial became notorious for what appeared to be deliberate efforts by the judge, Julius Hoffman, to squash evidence and intimidate the defence team.
The star-studded cast does a great job in their roles, though the spotlight is unsurprisingly stolen by Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong as Abbie Hoffman (no relation to the judge) and Jerry Rubin respectively.
In real life, Abbie and Rubin were founders of the Youth International Party (Yippies) and would constantly disrupt the trial with comedic antics, such as showing up one day dressed in full judge robes.
Cohen and Strong both bring amazing energy to their roles and whenever they’re on screen, they completely dominate.
Sadly, the film does fall short in one key area. In the first stages of the trial, the Black Panther Party national chairman Bobby Seale was also included among the defendents despite the evidence connecting him to the riots being incredibly slim.
The treatment of Seale by the court was appalling, with Seale being repeatedly denied access to his lawyer and even being literally chained to his chair and violently gagged at one point.
This was a major point of contention between Seale and the other defendents since, as he pointed out at the time, it was clear evidence of the vastly higher stakes African-Americans like him were facing as opposed to the all-white seven.
While Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is amazing as Seale, I feel like Sorkin didn’t give him as much attention as he probably deserved in a film like this and that feels like a major missed opportunity.
Still, Abdul-Mateen’s speech in his final scene is powerful stuff and he makes the most of his role.
The timing of The Chicago 7 is not an accidental and it’s clear that Sorkin is trying to draw parallels between the anti-Vietnam protests back then and the BLM protests that continue to rock the United States.
As Sorkin repeats throughout the film, “the whole world is watching”.
Chicago 7 is streaming on Netflix.