The Trial of the Chicago 7 review: Aaron Sorkin helms ‘riveting’ courtroom drama

Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay now

Get email updates with the day’s biggest stories

Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice

This one looks set to be an awards contender.

After a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention devolved into violence between protesters and the authorities, the activists leading the protest are charged with conspiracy to incite a riot. Thus begins one of the most infamous trials in American history as seven activists face-off against a system where the odds are not in the favour.

Acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin returns to the directing chair once again after his underrated poker thriller Molly’s Game with this powerful Netflix legal drama that taps into both modern debates and also recreates an pivotal historical period  with precision and gusto.

Sorkin’s script is characteristic of his fast-paced, witty, and insightful bibliography, presenting big personalities but instilling them with believability – even if some occasionally veer into the one dimensional.

The protest: (L-R) Caitlin Fitzgerald as Daphne O’connor, Alan Metoskie as Allen Ginsburg, Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Sasha Baron Cohen as Abbey Hoffman, Noah Robbins as Lee Weiner

Read More
Related Articles

  • Netflix's Mank trailer sees David Fincher direct the story behind Citizen Kane

Read More
Related Articles

  • Mangrove review: Steve McQueen film is 'stirring, pulsating, and heartbreaking'

These lines would be nothing without the excellent ensemble of performers, including the brilliant work by the defendants unfairly placed on trial. The best of the bunch has to be Sacha Baron Cohen who once again proves his dramatic chops as the witty but articulate and impassioned counterculture icon Abbie Hoffman – one face-off when he's under cross-examination is a particular highlight.

Other winning turns include recent Emmy winner Jeremy Strong as Hoffman’s fiery comrade Jerry Rubin, John Carroll Lynch as the calm and collected David Dellinger, and Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as the palatable face in the dock, Tom Hayden.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (L-R) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale, Ben Shenkman as Leonard Weinglass, Mark Rylance as William Kuntsler, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, and Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis

Frank Langella stars as the tyrannical Judge Julius Hoffman

Read More
Related Articles

  • Kajillionaire review: Evan Rachel Wood leads Miranda July’s 'offbeat dramedy'

Elsewhere, Oscar winner Mark Rylance is once again reliably understated as defence attorney William Kunstler, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the reasonable but slippery prosecutor Richard Schultz, Michael Keaton is charismatic as a surprising late addition, and Frank Langella makes a cantankerous and infuriating tyrant in Judge Julius Hoffman.

A special shout-out should be given, however, to the brief but memorable work from recent Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther activist Bobby Seale who is the most victimised of all the defendants to enter Judge Hoffman’s court and whose scenes will likely linger most with viewers.

Mark Rylance as defence attorney William Kunstler, and Eddie Redmayne as polticial activist Tom Hayden in The Trial of the Chicago 7
(Image: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as innocent Black Panther activist Bobby Seale
(Image: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX)

Read More
Related Articles

  • The Boys in the Band review: Netflix revives landmark gay drama with 'excellent cast'

The twists and turns of the legal drama will enthrall viewers but there is occasionally the feeling that with so many big personalities and performances that this lengthy trial would have been best shown as a mini-series rather than crammed int 2 hours and 20ish minutes, with some scenes skipping by all too quickly and concluding with the unnecessary postscript to try and further ground us in reality.

However, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is ultimately an entertaining piece of courtroom drama with powerful performances and an inspiring screenplay that taps into the cultural zeitgeist in a glossy Hollywood manner.


The Trial of the Chicago 7 is an ever-relevant and riveting tale of systemic corruption, buoyed by excellent performances and another fast-paced Aaron Sorkin script.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is in select cinemas now and will be released on Netflix on October 16, 2020.

What is your favourite courtroom drama film? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *