“A democratic convention is about to begin in a police state. There just doesn’t seem to be any other way to say it.” – an actual on-air statement from Walter Cronkite used in the beginning of this film
Nixon’s White House, eager to lock up “long hairs”. An untested law. Real history y’all. Add in rapid-fire kickass dialogue courtesy of Alan Sorkin, and performances that made me forget that Borat and Newt Scamander were playing revolutionaries? You’ve got a damn compelling two hours of courtroom shenanigans and genuine emotional impact.
The plot jumps from the seven (eight, really) individually getting ready for the Chicago Democratic Convention protests, and then suddenly cuts to day one of the trial. This keeps viewers off-base, eager to find out what happened, and why. Using dramatic recreations and historical footage, the film shows that the screenplay ain’t just liberal mumbo jumbo, it’s based on real documented events. It’s a sobering juxtaposition among the comedic back and forth between the main characters.
The ensemble cast is perfect, give or take a few iffy accents (but c’mon, Sasha Baron Cohen’s Hoffman is a pleasure to listen to, over the top accent and all.) And Frank Langella plays a blatantly unhinged judge (true to life, apparently) that’ll have you scoffing at the screen. Surely nobody was that awful you’ll think…and then the state of our country in the recent past will pull you right out of that way of thinking. Sorkin said this film is less about the trial, and more about what’s happening today, and it shows. The whole world is watching, indeed.
Netflix did a great background video on the trial and how the reverberations have been felt ever since. There are interviews of several professors and researchers of this periodically of history, and it’s excellent. Give it a look.