In 1969, eight men face conspiracy charges after the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A movie that looks like it was always destined to be written by Aaron Sorkin; who else could make this courtroom drama come alive with such passion, exceptional performances and crackling dialogue? Predictably crowd-pleasing, with a rousing finale, but Sorkin also makes a clear connection to modern-day protests and the patriotic spirit of standing up to your government when it is misbehaving. Frank Langella becomes a perfect foe as the conservative judge; Eddie Redmayne and Sacha Baron Cohen are fine as civil rights heroes of different stripes.
2020-U.S. 129 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Stuart M. Besser, Matt Jackson, Marc Platt, Tyler Thompson. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Cast: Eddie Redmayne (Tom Hayden), Sacha Baron Cohen (Abbie Hoffman), Mark Rylance (William Kunstler), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella… Jeremy Strong, Michael Keaton.
Trivia: At one point, Steven Spielberg was going to direct; Seth Rogen was reportedly considered for a role. The story was also told in The Chicago 8 (2012) and the documentary Chicago 10 (2008).
Last word: “It’s a personal story. Most of the conflict in the story is about ideas, but it gets more personal than that. I was coming at these people and at this event with next to no knowledge at all… Coming at this with no preconceived notions turned out to be a blessing. I had a hard time getting fully on board with Abbie Hoffman… I found his antics counterproductive, the way Hayden does. I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. But I wanted him to be a hero. Tom and Abbie kind of balance each other out. It’s a reflection of the Democratic Party today, the intramural friction between the left and the further left.” (Sorkin, Medium.com)