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(film review) [STREAMING] - The Trial of the Chicago 7


I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started watching this.  I had no idea about the cast, I had no idea about the story, I had no idea what it was all about and I just felt initially it was some Central Park Five "rip-off" of sorts and having not known this movie was based on a real thing that had occurred in real life, I was pleasantly taken aback once I got into the movie.  You see, I'm not an American and in school, they were quick to teach us about slavary, Christopher Columbus, Henry and his many women and a few plagues and the great fire of London, but not real life events such as the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Central Park 5 or The Trial of the Chicago 7.  In 2020, even more truths are being unearthed in media like films and TV series such as Lovecraft Country, so I do find it despicable that there are generations and generations of people, not only black, who do not know what has happened in history, because these events have been for the most part, undocumented.  I digress.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 centers around a group of 8 anti–Vietnam War protesters, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, John Froines, and Bobby Seale who were arrested in Chicago for conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots during a Democratic National Convention in 1968.  Whilst the 7 defendants are being represented by William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, Bobby Seale isn't represented and Judge Julius Hoffman shows significant prejudice for the prosecution whilst there is also racial tension with Fred Hampton the Chicago chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and other Black Panther members in the courtroom.  Whilst Abbie openly antagonises the court during the trial, many of the defendants are charged with contempt of court while they try to figure out who initially incited the riot on the hill.

I'm not going to lie, this film took a little while to grab me.  Maybe because I wasn't initially interested or the film didn't seem engaging, but once we were in the courtroom and jokes were flying along with the lunacy, I was fully engaged.  I felt like, if some of these things, reactions, comments and behaviours were verbatim, this trial was an absolute mess.  Although the "lead" of this movie was Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the film was mostly joint carried by the ensemble cast with Sacha Baron Cohen as halfway through the movie, Yahya disappears and Sacha carries on.  Even to a point, even Eddie Redmayne takes a lot of the spotlight in the third act, or at least, that's when I realised it was him and he CAN talk properly, the other characters do come across as fillers.  It would have been nice to get a little backstory from all 8 of the defendants as it just didn't seem sufficient enough.  Some of the cast members, you couldn't really care about as the connection wasn't really there for me.

What I loved about the movie, whether historically accurate to the very last dot, was the depiction of the Black Panther Party and the fact Fred Hampton was in court sitting right behind Bobby as an assist.  It was lovely to see and also made me google Fred Hampton as I had no idea who he was although I had heard  of the name.  Considering there is a movie starring Daniel Kaluuya as Fred coming out at some point soon, this movie helped me to gravitate towards black activists and Revolutionary Socialists because this was and is unknown territory to me.  Yahya was great as usual, tell me of a time when he wasn't? And Sacha was also great.  The drama really got a little thick when you saw Michael Keaton and there was a scene when they were all in a room discussing and an argument broke out.  that scene was played out well, I just felt that maybe there should have been some more heavier moments.

A decent movie and worth the watch but not as gripping as I believe perhaps, I would have liked it to have been, but it does help you to understand what happened at that time, why and what the state of affairs were like in the late 60's.  The Protesting, the Vietnam War, the riots etc.  It's extremely difficult to sometimes take in these films and shows and not treat them as just fiction because they were not taught in school and hardily anyone would know about events like these, so for that reason alone, it is a must watch.


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