• a man in a t-shirt teaching kidsSound of Metal‘s premise is frightening in its simplicity: a rock and roll drummer (Riz Ahmed) loses his hearing.

      Sound of Metal
      Directed by Darius Marder – 2020
      Reviewed by Mark Tapio Kines

      Going into the film, I had assumed that we would watch as Ahmed’s character, Ruben, struggles against a slow and uncertain decline. In fact Ruben’s deafness comes quite quickly and quite completely. Before you know it, his bandmate/girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) plunks him off at a hearing-impaired halfway house – Ruben’s four years of sobriety are at risk due to this unexpected trauma – and vanishes. Over an unclear amount of time, Ruben adjusts to this new chapter of his life as he, as one character puts it, “learns how to be deaf”. It’s not the film I expected, yet it’s a very good film: bittersweet, thoughtful, and human.

      After opening with a brief montage of American life in the late 1960s, and an introduction to a fictitious federal prosecutor played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chicago 7 jumps right into the courtroom, as the titular seven defendants – a motley crew of white leftist activists accused of inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago – settle in for their trial. (The riot itself plays out in multiple flashbacks.) Rather conspicuously, Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), national chairman of the Black Panther Party, is lumped in with these seven, even though he wasn’t involved in the riot, was barely even in Chicago at the time, and is consistently denied legal representation, as his lawyer is ill.

      In fact it is the outrageous mistreatment that Seale receives, mostly at the hand of the trial’s blatantly biased judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), that is Chicago 7‘s most enlightening history lesson. If the seven other defendants share varying degrees of responsibility for the riot (which was really started by Chicago cops), Seale clearly had no reason to be in that courtroom, and what happens to him is downright frightening. Sorkin and Langella also make Julius Hoffman easy to hate. He is the most despicable villain in 2020 cinema.

      Although it is inarguably an ensemble picture, Chicago 7 mostly focuses on the conflicting views of the trial’s two most famous defendants: future politician Tom Hayden (cleaned up and portrayed, by Eddie Redmayne, as a bit of a goody two-shoes) and Yippie anarchist/clown Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen, who sort of passes for the Abbie Hoffman of our time). The actors are excellent – the whole cast is excellent – even if you sense that Sorkin is bringing both Hoffman’s and Hayden’s politics closer to the center than they really were.

      From A Few Good Men to To Kill a Mockingbird, Aaron Sorkin loves a good legal drama, especially one that pits honest, hard-working good guys against arrogant, unrepentant bad guys. And The Trial of the Chicago 7 is certainly relevant in today’s era of protests, both righteous and not, where the question of who “incites” a riot has become a national issue. But in the end, Sorkin wants to please his audience, and this film will leave you feeling satisfied, pumped up, and only somewhat manipulated by its maker.

      > Playing on Prime. Winner of National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor.

      Mark Tapio Kines is a film director, writer, producer and owner of Cassava Films. You can reach Mark here.

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        • Mark Tapio Kines

          Mark Tapio Kines is a film director, writer, producer and owner of Cassava Films.

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

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