‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ reviews: Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix drama is ‘entertaining,’ ‘frighteningly vital’

Aaron Sorkin has assembled one of the best casts of the year for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” a follow-up to his directorial debut, “Molly’s Game.” The film is based on the true story of a group of anti-Vietnam War activists and protestors who were charged with conspiracy in 1969. It is now available in select theaters and will drop on Netflix on Oct. 16. Critics have now screened “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which has a solid score of 75 on Metacritic as of this writing. Will the film become a major awards player this season?

Looking at Rotten Tomatoes, which is more binary than Metacritic, the film has an even more impressive 92% approval rating from critics. With 34 fresh reviews and only three rotten as of Friday, Sorkin’s film is shaping up to be a strong contender heading into the Oscar season. Critics rave that the courtroom drama is “inherently compelling,” “gripping” and “simultaneously entertaining and galvanizing.” Opinions are split on Sorkin’s ability as a director, with some arguing “Chicago 7” is “more confident” in execution than “Molly’s Game,” while others believe his strengths remain in his screenwriting.

With “The Trial of the Chicago 7” bursting with award-winning talent, including newly crowned Emmy winners Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeremy Strong, many are wondering which members of the ensemble could score Oscar nominations. Reviews are all over the place when it comes to standouts, though Sacha Baron Cohen‘s spirited performance as Abbie Hoffman seems to have earned the most attention. Critics rave that Baron Cohen is “so good” in the role.

Other top mentions include Abdul-Mateen for his performance as Bobby Seale, Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman and Mark Rylance as defense lawyer William Kunstler, his “best work since ‘Bridge of Spies.'” We may have to wait for precursor awards to determine just who will be singled out for Oscar consideration, but it’s probably safe to assume this is an early contender for the SAG Awards’ best ensemble prize.

Will you be watching “The Trial of the Chicago 7” this fall? Check out some early reviews below and discuss in our forums here with fellow movie obsessives.

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Brian Truitt (USA Today): “Sorkin’s second outing as director is a more confident and well-executed affair than his first … The filmmaker crafts an entertaining, immersive and ultimately optimistic spectacle that never forgets, especially at its ending, that humanity should always trump the system … Mark Rylance does his best work since his Oscar-winning ‘Bridge of Spies.'”

Stephanie Zacharek (Time): “A movie as simultaneously entertaining and galvanizing as anything you’ll see this year … I can hear what some of you are thinking: This movie is just two-hours-plus of men talking; who wants to watch that? I, too, dread movies about talking men, but the “Trial of the Chicago 7″ won me over in its first, fleet 10 minutes.”

Steve Pond (The Wrap): “At a time of so much focus on police brutality, and a time when protest is being demonized as the election approaches, this story set 50 years ago feels oddly, frighteningly vital.”

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter): “Sorkin has made a movie that’s gripping, illuminating and trenchant, as erudite as his best work and always grounded first and foremost in story and character.”

Ty Burr (The Boston Globe): “So inherently compelling — and so directly germane to an America where the government labels cities ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ and states are drawing up laws against free assembly — that it doesn’t need the frills. Let the kids know what happened the way it happened. They can handle the truth.”

Mike Ryan (Uproxx): “I got those chills down the back as I watched something I’m just loving for the first time of what will be many times … Cohen is much older than Hoffman was at this time, but he’s so good that it’s hard to care.”
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