Eddie Redmayne in The Trial of the Chicago 7. | Niko Tavernise/Netflix
The star-studded drama returns to the past with a purpose.
Any time a story from history is retold for the big screen (or, these days, for the little screen), one fundamental question must be answered: Why now?
Filmmakers don’t (or shouldn’t) revisit the past just because they think it’s kind of a cool story that will make bank at the box office. Real people’s lives are being mined for material, after all. So if you’re going to retell a historical tale, you need a reason: parallels to the present, or inspiring heroism, or a lesson of some kind.
We can ask this question of Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and find several obvious answers. Sorkin — one of the few screenwriters whose name is a household brand unto itself — originally wrote the script back in 2007, but the project got shelved during the 2007–’08 writers’ strike. He picked it up again in 2018 with a presidential election in the middle distance, and it’s easy to understand why: The film is a lightly fictionalized courtroom drama based on the six-month trial of seven men accused of conspiring to cross state…