Writer/director Aaron Sorkin starts off and ends The Trial of the Chicago 7 (C) capably even as his unremarkable filmmaking style and pacing rarely meet the might of his prose about rabble-rousers caught up in history and a civics lesson with modern undertones. A saccharine Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, one of the founders of the Students for a Democratic Society, and a restrained but potent Sacha Baron Cohen as notorious Yippies leader Abbie Hoffman showcase contrasting styles of social protest in a real-life story set in the six months’ aftermath of riots protesting the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Sorkin’s real conspiracy is with his camera as he seems to know very little to do with it aside from a colluding gaze at the star-studded faces of his courtroom pageant. It all feels like it’s leading up to a denouement that doesn’t quite land. Some of the writing has zest, and the acting, especially Frank Langella as the judge and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the lead federal prosecutor, delivers some relish to legal proceedings. Many of the intercutting flashbacks don’t add much to the matters at hand, and much of the ensemble film simply feels stagey. Noble in intentions but marred in talk and treacle, the movie never becomes as Very Important as its auteur intends.
Available on Netflix.