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What’s Up at the Movies: We Review “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

The Trial of the Chicago 7, which dropped on Netflix yesterday after a limited theatrical run, is a film with palpably lofty ambitions. It intends to be the next great courtroom drama, and coming from Aaron Sorkin, the legendary screenwriter whose film career started with A Few Good Men, that’s not an unreasonable expectation. It aims for awards season glory, stacking the cast with recognizable talent and using Sorkin’s trademark verbal sparring to give them plenty of opportunities to shine. It also clearly hopes to be the film of the moment, to tap into the zeitgeist and inspire action at a crucial time in America’s political history. There’s no shame in having ambitions like those, but there is risk: miss your target even by a little, and audience can feel themselves being pushed instead of moved. This movie consistently hits on just one of those three— and probably the one Sorkin cared about the least.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 dramatizes the real trial of a group of high-profile anti-Vietnam activists charged with conspiring to incite the riots that broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Sorkin divides the seven defendants into four groups: Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron-Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) from the Youth International Party (Yippies); David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) from the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (The Mobe); and John Froines (Danny Flaherty) and Lee Weiner (Noah

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