trial of the chicago 7 streaming

Netflix is about to stream The Trial of the Chicago 7 for free for 48 hours, starting on Friday (tomorrow). The free streaming is meant to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the verdict in the real trial, but let’s get real – it’s also meant to drum up awards season buzz for the title. The Aaron Sorkin-directed film is a dramatized telling of the true story of how seven men associated with protesting the 1968 Democratic National Convention were put on trial after the peaceful protests escalated into full-blown violence.

On February 18, 1970, the verdict was read in the Chicago 7 trial against Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner (originally known as the Chicago 8, but changed to 7 when the case against co-defendant Bobby Seale was declared a mistrial earlier in the court proceedings). To mark the anniversary of the verdict, Netflix is making The Trial of the Chicago 7 available to stream for free on their YouTube page starting Friday at 12:00 A.M. PT. It will remain available for free for 48 hours.

Here’s a synopsis for the movie:

What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with the police and the National Guard. The organizers of the protest – Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner & John Froines along with Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot and the trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.

I imagine anyone who actually wanted to watch Chicago 7 by now has, but still, Netflix making this available for non-subscribers is worth noting. I reviewed Chicago 7 last year, and I thought the film was, for the most part, fine. The cast is what elevates the material, and Sorkin’s writing remains as crackling as ever. That said, Sorkin is a far better writer than he is filmmaker, and his directing choices here leave a lot to be desired. As I wrote in my review:

Sorkin is known for his dialogue rather than his direction, and after his second feature-directing gig, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. He remains a master of snappy lines but his filmmaking prowess continues to leave something to be desired. He clearly understands that he doesn’t need the film to be visually flashy since the real fireworks are coming from the performances, but his rather pedestrian approach continues to hamper him. Most of the shots here are medium, eye-level affairs, and for a film with so many characters, Sorkin often seems afraid to let them all share the same frame. This often runs the risk of making Chicago 7 come across as inert – a mood that thankfully doesn’t take hold, thanks to the strength of all those performances. And for a film with such a powerful, timely message, there are long stretches where Chicago 7 is too sterile; too cold. The filmmaking is in dire need of the same sort of fire and passion inherent in the performances.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong.

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