Movie Review: Battle in Seattle

With an opening sequence that closely mirrors the opening moments of The KingdomBattle in Seattle hardly ever lets up and packs quite a powerful punch. How this film managed to slip through the cracks only to ultimately end up in the hands of Redwood Palm Pictures is beyond me, but they have a quality picture in their hot little hands. Directed by actor-turned-writer-director-producer Stuart Townsend this film boasts a huge ensemble cast and it hits all the right notes. While it could have been tightened up maybe 5-10 minutes it is overall a highly successful directorial debut.

Battle in Seattle begins with a quick overview of the history of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its roots as it replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1995. It quickly jumps to November 1999 and the WTO conference held in Seattle, Washington. A conference that erupted into an all out riot as the Seattle police and National Guard took drastic measures against what was a group of primarily peaceful protestors.

For the most part the film is told from the protestors’ perspective featuring actors such as Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Carpenter and Andre Benjamin. On the other side you have the mayor of Seattle Jim Tobin (a fictional representation of then mayor Paul Schell) played by Ray Liotta working to hopefully have a week of peaceful protests as he does his best to coordinate both the WTO conference as well as the protestors.

A third angle is from the police perspective primarily focused on a character played by Woody Harrelson, a husband whose wife (Charlize Theron) is five months pregnant and works at a local clothing store. Theron’s part of the story, while necessary for a moment of understandable emotional impact, is actually the weakest link in the film as is Harrelson’s portion of the story when he becomes a detached member of the police department and ends up an angry man on the attack. The film walks a delicate balance between whether or not it’s about the individual people or the cause they were fighting and the Harrelson/Theron story sort of leaned a bit too far to one side as did a final moment of clarity for a television reporter played by Connie Nielsen representing the media’s portrayal of the events.


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