Film - The Trial of the Chicago 7

Chicago 7 poster

Steve Taylor-Bryant is frustrated at not yet having the film he wants to see so today he talks The Trial of the Chicago 7 and asks why does Alan J Pakula have to be dead?...

Chicago 1968 and the Democratic Party gathered at their convention to pick the nominee who would run for The White House. Eventually it was Hubert Humphrey that would lose to Richard Nixon and America was going through troubled times. Current incumbent President Lyndon Johnson was under fire for continued participation in the Vietnam war and protests were occurring throughout the country. Chicago, aware the eyes of the world were on them, put curfews in place and wouldn't hand out permits for peaceful protests within a certain distance of the convention. So it was a peaceful group looking for a different way of life about 5 miles outside the centre in Grant Park that allegedly started the story that we now know as the Chicago 8, eventually 7, or Conspiracy 8/7. Fifteen thousand people gathered in the park to protest the war, which led to a large number disobeying the city and marching onto the convention, being stopped outside the candidates' hotel. What started as a peaceful anti-war gathering descended into a police riot with Chicago P.D. using extreme measures to quell the protest. Tear gas, mace and baton beatings were handed out as the violence escalated into a five day display of hideous attacks from both sides, as protesters retaliated with rocks and bottles. Such was the horror of the scene network television cut away from the candidates' speeches to film the riot.

Eventually, eight people were arrested and charged with crossing state lines, building an incendiary device and the main charge of conspiracy to incite riot. Of the eight, Black Panther activist Bobby Seale eventually was tried separately on contempt of court charges, after his behaviour in the chambers to have the trial delayed led to him being gagged and tied to chair. The remaining seven, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner made a mockery of courtroom decorum at one point, turning up in Judge's robes and, when asked to remove them, were wearing police uniforms beneath them, and were berated by a Judge, Julius Hoffman. Riots and protests continued throughout the trial and the left sent their big guns, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, as support. Eventually they were cleared of conspiracy but jailed and fined for crossing state lines. A few years later, the court of appeals found that Judge Hoffman had been unfair and overly harsh, including banning the defence attorneys from jury selection, and overturned the convictions, deciding against a retrial and not handing down any further punishment for the contempt charges


I've been wanting to see Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7 film since it was first talked about and picked up Dreamworks. Spielberg turned it down, and I don't think has the right dark edge for a film of this nature anyway, and Paul Greengrass came and went in 2013. 

The film is crying out for an established director of political based films but, looking around, we don't seem to have one any more. Oliver Stone does okay but can't help but put his overbearing personality into his work and, whilst I love his films, I just feel he would change Sorkin's vision too much. Where is our Alan J. Pakula of this generation? A man who could make All The President's Men? (Honestly the man made Dustin Hoffman answering a phone exciting - my review here). A director of any sex that could make The Parallax View? Someone who could adapt a John Grisham book with the genius touch of The Pelican Brief? I'm at a loss trying to find someone as consistently good at the political as Pakula and am desperate to see The Trial of the Chicago 7 made so, to help Dreamworks along, here are my Top picks to direct the film that will either be a shoo-in for Oscars or will sink without trace.

Alan J. Pakula

5 - Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is pretty much my 'go to guy' for anything that doesn't immediately scream for another director. From sprawling epics to lighter moments, no one can knock Eastwood for making what he wants to see on screen and he's touched on the more controversial real life stories before in Flags of our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima, J. Edgar and American Sniper.

4 - Ron Howard

Ron Howard doesn't know how to make a bad film, you know, if we all pretend The Dilemma doesn't exist, and is not scared to take on true stories and do them exceedingly well. My only reservation is that I don't remember any of his films being so heavily dialogue driven as a Sorkin script and he has a 'glossy' look to many of his projects. However, A Beautiful Mind is a stunning film, thought provoking to the end, and The Missing and the incredible Frost/Nixon leap frog him over most other choices.

3 - David Fincher

David Fincher is one of my favourite directors and has worked with a heavy dialogue Sorkin script before in The Social Network. Incredibly impressive with Zodiac, another 'based on true events' film, and politically on the button with the American version of House of Cards, Fincher is a director that demands your attention and can take the most 'A' list of stars and have you believing in their characters. Would he have the touch for a legally based story? I think so.

2 - George Clooney

George Clooney is so impressive behind the camera and most of his directing duties have been on political type films. He is our generation's Eastwood in the making and I see lots more directing awards than I see acting statues in his future. Good Night and Good Luck is sublime as is The Ides of March and I certainly wouldn't be disappointed if he took the job.

1 - Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow is one of the best directors working today. I fell in love with her films with Point Break and the two war and political films, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, are unrivalled. Taking on the capture of Osama Bin Laden was always going to generate its critics but what impressed me was the deft touch she showed. Many other directors would have made a 'yee hah! We da American military' propaganda advert but Bigelow showed the tough decision making involved and didn't just make a patriotic movie. My first choice by a million miles.

Image - IMDb.
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