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This docu-drama about the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999 is made in the
same style as "Bloody Sunday", "United 93", and "Battle for Haditha":
it just shows events in real time without comment. We follow everyone
here from the ground up; the protest groups, the cops on the street,
their commanders, city officials, a news reporter, and innocent
bystanders. Maybe the scenes with the news reporter are the least
fleshed out, but that's a fairly minor complaint for a movie that is
very involving and entertaining and thought-provoking. Woody Harrelson
and Charlize Theron are very good, as usual, and Michelle Rodriguez is
perfectly cast. One of the big surprises here is Andre Benjamin, from
Outkast fame, who delivers a fine supporting performance; he's
irreverent but very smart. Ray Liotta is very effective as the mayor,
and the film does a great job of seeing the complexities in elected
officials as he struggles to please all sides; he is looking for the
protesters to behave while also wanting the WTO to address important
The audience I saw this with at the Toronto Festival gave it an ovation that lasted all through the credits. In terms of pure audience satisfaction, this movie was up there with "Juno" and "Body of War" and "Eastern Promises" as the fan favorites.
As we settled into our seats in Screen One in the Savoy Cinema, Dublin,
Ireland, we wondered how on earth Stuart Townsend could exposit the
intricate workings of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to an audience
who probably had no idea that it even existed.
We were not disappointed. From the breathtaking opening sequence, to the exhilarating ending, we were on the edge of our seats.
There were some outstanding performances André Benjamin as Django (from the band Outkast) and Michelle Rodriguez as Lou (best-known in Europe for the TV series 'Lost') in particular were superb as two of the demonstrators. André injected an unfailing sense of humor and light relief into this serious topic, and managed to turn his unusual headgear into a clever statement about endangered species. Michelle gave her character exceptional depth and feeling, and handled a complicated emotional sub-plot with a mixture of both detachment and passion that worked so well on screen.
Charlize Theron played an innocent bystander, Ella, who was trapped in the violent maelstrom, with horrific consequences for both her own character and her character's husband.
During the Q&A with Stuart and Charlize at the end of the movie, an audience member stood up an employee of the World Bank. She began by saying how cautious she was about coming to a movie about the WTO, but that she had to applaud Stuart for handing such a difficult subject so fairly. Her comments were echoed by a Trade Advocacy officer from a well-known Irish development charity, who congratulated him on creating a movie which managed to be both factually accurate and entertaining.
For anyone who has ever wished that this world was a better place, this movie is a must-see. For everyone else, this is a heart-warming movie about the power of the human spirit to overcome, to work together and to forgive.
(And as a footnote, Stuart gave free passes to the screening to protesters from the Campaign to Save Tara, who are still demonstrating against the construction of a new highway, the M3, in the historical valley at the Hill of Tara in Ireland. Stuart walks his talk.)
I just came back from watching the film at the Toronto International film festival, and I absolutely loved it. It is brilliantly made and brilliantly acted. Stuart Townsend is a very talented man; he is sure to win a few Oscars before the end of his career. Battle in Seattle is a great work which simply tells the story of the WTO riots in Seattle, without an obvious bias (at least in my opinion). The film also uses real footage during some parts which really help those who were not present during the riots see that the film isn't exaggerating how horrific people's actions were (on both sides). I highly recommend this film for anyone who loves films that entertain and teach.
I was lucky enough to see this film in advance, and it opened my eyes
to a few very important issues.
Going in, I'd never even heard of the "battle in Seattle," as I was only 13 years old at the time of the protests. But now that I'm aware of the event, it makes me wonder why the controversies with the WTO aren't still being discussed on a larger scale.
This is something that we should all be concerned about, and Stuart Townsend has done us a favor by introducing the issues in a format that is riveting, informative, and inspirational. If there's one thing Battle in Seattle does best, it's that it fires you up to take action any way you can.
Not to mention the great production values, absolutely stellar cast, and intense action sequences (Intense because they're real! Actual footage was used).
I would highly recommend attending a showing of this film with your family and friends, because these matters are important to us all, and Stuart's presentation of them is nothing short of breathtaking.
Just saw this film at the Dublin Film Festival this morning - packed screening at the Savoy. Stuart Townsend and Charlize Theron answered questions after wards - he was really nervous in front of a Dublin crowd. He said they filmed only two days in Seattle for budgetary reasons - the rest was in Vancouver. Good film though and he clearly did his research. I thought this was much better than Bobby, which had a similar ensemble cast and multiple viewpoints. Also, it didn't stick its politics down your throat and all sides got a relatively fair portrayal. The audience gave it a long ovation, and I see it got a good response at the Toronto festival - in my opinion it deserved it.
As a member of the Seattle community for nearly 20 years I was here when the WTO protests happened and I found this movie to be extremely powerful. I paid close attention to the events as they occurred in 1999; I even took part in one of the later protests outside a King County Courthouse/Jail. This film uses fictional characters to give perspective on the events both for legal and entertainment reasons and the result is amazing. I watched this film as part of the opening night celebration for the Seattle International Film Festival with nearly 3000 other Seattle area residents and the response was simply astounding. Afterwards in both the Q&A session with the director and part of the cast and the party following, I had the opportunity to hear from some others who were involved in the WTO incidents and no one voiced any disappointment with the way the film handled the issues. I would encourage everyone to see this film as soon as possible; American release is scheduled for September 2008 and I'm sure international release dates will be around the same time.
I knew very little about this subject before watching the film... I
expected to learn a little about it during the film and that was my
primary reason for attending the screening at the SXSW Film Festival in
Austin. Instead, I was blown away by an incredible story that weaves
the events in Seattle with several inspiring and complex characters. In
an amazing interaction that muddied the waters between the 'good' and
'bad' guys, this script moves you.
The theater cheered and yelled... an ovation throughout the credits in Austin as well... this movie is powerful and inspiring. I absolutely loved the cast as well as the style of film-making. Great work.
There are many that will dismiss this film as boring, lame or whatever
and I myself was a bit dubious as a Seattle native and somebody that
worked downtown during the riots. However, after seeing "Battle in
Seattle" last night in Los Angeles, I must say that I really enjoyed
it. Working within the reality of the film business (the need of star
power, dramatization, distribution and financing) I thought Stuart
Townsend did a great job of telling a fictional story about people
within the historical context of the WTO Seattle Ministerial. He was
also able to connect the film to what is happening today through some
factual statements in the prologue and epilogue that reminded the
audience that the WTO is still a presence in everybody's lives (whether
they know it or not). The film's website also exists to educate viewers
on the WTO. There were a lot of subtle details that I remember from
that week that he included that I was able to appreciate (especially
the Pine/Broadway riot which I was an observer of from the Bauahus Cafe
on Pine). Stuart Townsend, Charlize Theron and Martin Henderson were
also at the screening and talked for about 30 minutes about the film.
Stuart said that he was not trying to make a documentary about the WTO (since three already existed, one of which I've already seen ("30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle") and wanted to make a film about people. Overall, I think he did a great job. The only minor, personal beef I had was the casting of Tzi Ma as Governor Locke. Locke does not speak with any trace of an accent and hearing Ma ranting on screen with a slight accent was just weird for me (being very familiar with Gary Locke...but nobody else will even bat an eye). A lot of people complained that the entire film wasn't filmed in Seattle, but that was the reality of financing. He mentioned that if he had to film in Vancouver to get the film made, so be it. Most of the key scenes/landmarks were shot in Seattle so you never really lost track of the Seattle vibe (believe me, I recognized every landmark on screen). Stuart mentioned that he learned a lot about the film making industry (from the point of a first time director) and how brutal it can be.
The WTO is obviously a topic most of Hollywood would not touch with a 10 foot pole. He also said that of the six or so years he spent on the project, only 29 days were actual filming days with the rest spent on research, production, editing etc. I have to give a lot of credit to Stuart for tackling this topic and seeing it to completion and fighting for distribution. It would be the equivalent of me trying to make a film around the Inniskillin Bombing which I do not remember when it happened back in 1987, but have heard of. I was able to shake Stuart's hand afterward and he was a very cool guy and tried to talk to everybody even as his publicist tried to drag him away after the screening.
"Labour itself is but a sorrowful song, The protest of the weak against
Frederick William Faber
As a liberal, I empathize with the protesters in the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. And I do empathize. The need for world organizations and big companies to consider the health of poorer countries before appropriating their resources is paramount.
In Battle in Seattle, director Stuart Townsend uses the stock devices of the docudrama: smoothly inter-cutting between scenes of police and protesters and expertly interspersing authentic footage with the dramatized. The feel is as if the audience is participant; the dilemma of how far either side should go in keeping the peace or disturbing it is palpable.
The drama is enhanced by fictionalizing the opposing forces through the lens of policeman Dale (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Ella (Charlize Theron), both caught up in the escalating violence and too neatly tied to the issues of each side. The challenges of the protesters are also too deftly tied to a romance of the leader and a follower.
This facile mixing of truth and fiction leaves me a bit cold, as if I were the victim of a fraud because the reality of the historic event seems trivialized by clichéd romances and tragedies. I am always dismayed by the Michael-Moore-style loading of the left to the exclusion of the right's point of view: What are the purposes of the WTO? Has it been successful? How? These questions are rarely explored any more than the complicated motives and lives of the protesters.
But the docudrama succeeds in illuminating the WTO and its critics. As history has written, little progress has been made during the intervening decade even though the talks were stopped in Seattle. But as one of the combatants points out, only by small steps and persistence can the battle be won. And so went the Battle in Seattle.
This lame film sets a terribly-written fictional narrative against the
backdrop of the 1999 riots in Seattle that occurred during the meeting
of the World Trade Organization. Director Stuart Townsend, who is also
responsible for the juvenile screenplay, concocts ridiculous and
melodramatic situations out of a scenario that already had enough
dramatic heft of its own without embellishment.
Townsend creates a group of stock characters that includes the beleaguered Seattle mayor (Ray Liotta); a couple of protesters (Martin Henderson and Michelle Rodriquez) whom the screenplay forces into an awkward and unnecessary romance; a reporter (Connie Nielsen) who actually joins the protesters(!) after she witnesses some police brutality (I'm not making this up); and a police officer (Woody Harrelson) and his pregnant wife (Charlize Theron) whose lives are altered dramatically by the events of those few days. These actors are put into narrative situations that a 16-year-old would come up with if he were asked to jot down a bunch of scenarios that he thought would have a dramatic impact on his audience. Therefore, everything is hokey and maudlin to the extreme. The story line involving Theron, in particular, actually made me angry because of its cheap tactics.
A straight-up documentary about the WTO riots would be far more worth your time than this film. Hell, your time would be better spent watching "Dumb and Dumber."
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