Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:
Today, Tony of Coogs Reviews is here to look at the Best Picture nominee – The Trial of The Chicago 7.
On paper, this is one of the more “Oscar baity” films of the nominees this year. A period drama with parallels to today written and directed by Aaron Sorkin is pretty much catnip for Oscar voters, at least when it comes to nominees. Whilst I still think the momentum for Best Picture means that it will likely go to Nomadland, there is a scenario where I can see Chloe Zhao winning Best Director but this winning Best Picture.
Of the ones it is nominated for, I think this is a lock for Best Original Screenplay, and with good reason. Aaron Sorkin’s writing shines in this kind of scenario and I think this is one of the best screenplays he has written for a film. The scenes in the courtroom are electric and each line of dialogue just bounces off each other to create some incredible scenes throughout the film. Sorkin also does a good job at creating parallels between the protest movements of the 1960s and the protest movements of today. The recurring shout of ‘the whole world is watching’ is just as relevant today as it would have been in the 60s.
Aside from the script, what makes the film work so well is the excellent cast that Sorkin assembled. If the Oscars had a category for Best Ensemble Cast, which it should have had for a long time now, this would easily be the frontrunner this year. Each of the performers bring something unique to the film and the combination of all of their talents makes this work so well. Obviously, most of the attention has gone to Sacha Baron Cohen, but the work of Jeremy Strong, Eddie Redmayne, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Alex Sharp, Noah Robbins and Daniel Flaherty as those on trial should not be ignored. Whilst most awards contention for Best Supporting Actor is going to Daniel Kaluuya for his portrayal of Fred Hampton, Kelvin Harrison Jr’s portrayal of him should not be overlooked. Then you’ve got people like Frank Langella who relishes going so over the top with his character and Michael Keaton who completely steals the film with his brief appearance. Then you’ve got Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Doman, Caitlin FitzGerald, the cast is stacked with great talent and all of them just go all in with their delivery of Sorkin’s dialogue.
Where I think the film does suffer is through Sorkin as a director. He is clearly a better writer than he is a director. His work here is fine, but it doesn’t elevate the script in the way that someone like David Fincher, Rob Reiner, Bennett Miller or Danny Boyle would. His style of directing is more in line with how The West Wing was directed. This isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, but I do understand why Sorkin wasn’t nominated for Best Director, even if I think this has a chance of winning Best Picture.
Whilst Nomadland is the frontrunner for this year, I can see a scenario where there is an upset and this wins instead. This is the more safe and traditional pick for a Best Picture winner. Again, this is not a bad thing and I do really enjoy this film, but this is a case where it is more of a writer’s film. I do think it is likely to win Best Original Screenplay, but aside from that I don’t think it will win any other Oscars.