The Chicago 8 (2011) Poster


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Highly problematic but tolerable
Rodrigo_Amaro15 April 2013
Good call but I'm gonna wait for Spielberg's side of the story, planned for ages and with a stellar-cast to be released in who knows when. He's the one who has the mind, patience, the people and the money to make something truly unforgettable and award winning. Meanwhile we have this which is quite troubled. Too fast, too unbelievable despite the use of the actual trial transcripts, messy time and time again and poorly made. Not having the funds necessary doesn't mean simplistic takes on such a thought-provoking real life story.

It's not all wrong, it just seems to be in that way. From the awkward presentation to the editing mess and going with some average to bad performances, "The Chicago 8" diminishes the impact of the events that took place in between 1968 and 1970, going from the riots at the Democratic National Convention which led to Nixon's green light the prosecutions from the allegedly inciters (young activists opposed to the Vietnam war) in 1969, more problematic than the protests, delayed and agitated time and time again due to the conflictive nature of the eight men accused against a biased and authoritarian judge (played by a histrionic Philip Baker Hall).

The director's big and failed idea is to be and present more than it can eat, bite and chew. It shifts from being a clichéd panorama of the 1960's with its sex, drugs and rock n'roll ideas to the serious drama concerning one of the most infamous cases of the American judicial system, and several comedic moments, everything altogether. Like a scratched 78 rpm vinyl, this goes almost nowhere with its repetitive scheme: trial, mess in the court, the defendants get beaten up, judge gets out of order, the prosecution always gets favorable motions from the man, the defense doesn't get same treatment and the judgment doesn't go on. Slap. Again. Slap. Again. Minor variation of the events. Again. It goes in circles for too long without explaining some facts - like why Bobby Seale (Orlando Jones) was arrested and the other 7 kept free to plan their defense better. Those who don't know the story will be completely lost. Not to mention it's too one dimensional, doesn't expose the other side of the quarrel, the government reactions and reasons for keep this circus going on. It might be covered with the truth but it doesn't pass the image of being authentic, credible. I don't know which was more unbelievable or was the biggest travesty of all: the movie or the real trial.

Major reason to enjoy this: the acting coming from the young stars, specially Danny Masterson (playing Jerry Rubin), Thomas Ian Nicholas (best in scene playing Abby Hoffman), Jones plays a good Bobby Seale but not as good as Courtney B. Vance in "Panther" and a quite remarkable Gary Cole playing the Chicago 8 lawyer. The young actors were dedicated, relatable and truly inspiring sometimes, eclipsing heavyweights like Baker Hall and Steven Culp. It's a shame they don't have much of a elaborated text to work with which reduced their roles to cheesy lines, some dull moments and one or two great lines of dialog.

I liked this movie but felt that there's something missing. It's such a powerful and interesting case that doesn't get translated to the screen with the same verve. 6/10
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Bad film making
SnoopyStyle23 October 2013
I don't know how true this movie is to the events of the trial. I do know that this is badly made by Pinchas Perry. The trial may be significant and the events important. But that just means that this subject should be done by someone much better skilled. Although the story is compelling enough to watch. By no means did I finish the film for its artistry.

In a rare instant, Philip Baker Hall overacts as an angry frustrated judge. Even if they're operating from the actual transcripts, I doubt that the judge would be raving like a rabid dog. And even if he was a rabid dog, it plays like overacting on the screen. It's a rare moment when I dislike PBH's acting. This movie is that rare moment.

The whole thing is a diatribe against the government prosecution. But it rarely gives any credence to the other side. If anything, the jury is treated like idiots who just want to go home. If they ease up, they could actually create compelling characters.

The trial has all the best scenes. Most everything else is weak. It should enlighten the audience to the times, but it does little more than stereotypes and stock news footage. The film should restrict itself to the trial until they could figure out how to make a movie.

And the split screen style is a big fail. It puts a big sign pointing to how the director has no idea how to cut a movie to maximize tension. It's a gimmick that doesn't fit and makes no sense here.

The last third lost it energizer bunny, Bobby Seale. The energy is noticeably diminished, and the movie desperately wants to have a scene with Bobby Seale in that section. Instead of a compelling climax, it fizzles in a haze of political preaching.

I'm barely recommending this only for people to learn something and hopefully do their own research on that era.
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there's a far superior version: skip this one
kindwords4 May 2015
Happened to find CONSPIRACY: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO EIGHT on U2b and liked it so much I sought a DVD of it. Mistakenly ended up with this mess in the mail instead. Both the best version and this one use actual trial transcripts, but the 1987 includes interviews with actual participants in the trial and boasts a remarkable all-star cast. The 2011 version is badly acted, badly edited, supplemented with flashy filler (not trusting and, simultaneously, undercutting the potency of the actual trial), and weak in its selection of which trial scenes to include. HBO doesn't offer the original TV film, and Amazon way overprices it. TV docudramas of the '80s (another being WASHINGTON: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS) often captured the grit and sinew of HBO's early years of same, such as AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. If you're a film student, a comparison/contrast on the sublime '87 and ridiculous '11 would make a dandy term paper.
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What a great movie! A must-see for anyone interested in civil liberties or US history
paul-453-5562385 October 2013
What a great movie! Filmed in a style that echoes the times, it re-enacts a seminal court case (one that many have never heard of). This was not only an important event for my generation, but also has echoes in the current US.

If you have never heard of the "Chicago 8", you need to see this movie all the more.

Well acted and directed (though some of the multi-angle shots may be off putting). We're the script not taken from the court transcript, it might be considered a bit over-the-top, but it is delivered with panache and flair. Great direction and production.

Offers a useful antidote to sludge like "zero dark thirty"
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JonathanWalford20 November 2013
The triumvirate of directing, writing, and acting was completely out of whack in this film and the bulk of the blame goes to the director. Despite the poorly written script, the actors manage to pull off some believability, but the overall film is otherwise an epic fail of bad directing, editing, and historical detailing.

The movie tries to take on too much and fails on all counts of telling anyone's side of the story. The most impressive part of the film is how a young director managed to get so many capable actors and find the money to green light this project.

I think the biggest surprise is how the costuming was so badly done. 1969 has to be one of the easiest time periods to recreate since there is a ton of the clothes from the period still available, it's cheap and easy to find, and there are loads of images to study. The slap dash costuming is just a symptom of the very poor effort put into this film.
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