The trial that shook America

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln in his inaugural speech said,” When the people shall grow weary of their constitutional right to amend their government, they shall exert their revolutionary right to dismember & overthrow the government.”

100 years later in 1968, something happened at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that shook the faith of the judicial system in U.S. The Chicago riots mark as one of the darkest days in the history of U.S. democracy. And five months later there began a trial as the Government decided to make an example out of these protesters.

There are civil trials and there are political trials too. The thing about political trial is they are inherently cinematic, elaborately scripted & covered by media as escapist entertainment for general public. Everyone is a character. Everything is a spectacle. We all must have experienced this by watching those news channels about how they exaggerate the topic and all. That’s why the quote ‘The whole world is watching’ makes more sense in this context.

Written & directed by Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, The trial of the Chicago 7, follows a group of defendants protesting against Vietnam war who are facing a set of charges made by U.S. federal government.

The film plunges into the essence of courtroom drama introducing the Chicago 7 in quick succession. All the characters are brilliantly fleshed out. The film boasts an excellent cast but the real standout performers are Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden- leader of Student Democratic Society (SDS), Yahya Abdul Mateen as Bobby Seale- leader of Black Panther party & Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman- leader of Youth International Party (Yippies) all delivering electrifying performances.

The one thing I loved about this film is the script. “We are not going to jail because of what we did, we are going to jail because of who we are.” The dialogues are phenomenal ranging from the high pitched verbal battles in & out of the courtroom & Sorkin’s dexterity with screenplay, juxtaposing actual footage of riots to that of Cohen’s standup gig at a bar leading to a climatic confrontation between the police and the protesters.

The narrative is consumed by cultural movement that raises questions about morality, patriotism, law & system bias. Yet the film is watchable with a blend of satire, emotion &, humour. The film sends a clear message that how democracy can be easily murdered if power falls into wrong hands & 50 years later things haven’t changed. A movie like that won’t leave a smile on your face as Hoffman’s final monologue in the film-
I think the institutions of our democracy are wonderful things that right now are populated by some terrible people. We carried ideas across state lines. Not machine guns or drugs or little girls.


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