Battle in Seattle

Despite the awful title, something out of a Godzilla movie or perhaps a boxing match or worse something the WWE would cook up, the events surrounding the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle seemed unreal at the time.? Nearly 30,000 protesters, across several different organizations, descended upon Seattle and with the help of the Seattle police and National Guard caused chaos to reign. It was actually a small sect of “anarchists” who turned out to be the cause of most of the destruction.

It was truly one of the last moments of actual protest and unrest on this country’s soil.? Hard to believe when looking back over the footage that these events were caused by the World Trade Organization and Americans can’t even get a decent protest going over the War in Iraq and some of the other Constitutional aversions the Bush Adminsistration has.

Sigh.? But, maybe Stuart Townshend’s movie will help change all that.? It has a huge cast, including Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Andre 3000, Channing Tatum, Michelle Rodriguez, Ray Liotta, Joshua Jackson, Martin Henderson, among others.

This material seems ripe for Paul Greengrass, but it looks like Townshend may have crafted something decent here with Battle in Seattle. ?

Unfortunately, the Guardian find the film midling at best:

The catastrophic Seattle riots, in which police brutality thwarted a largely peaceful, if stubbornly disruptive, protest, have already been well covered by documentaries like This Is What Democracy Looks Like. This film defines itself by providing “human focus”, navigating the sprawling confrontation through a handful of individual mini-dramas. In doing so, it has no choice but to follow the dynamics of a disaster movie. First, we see the various groups preparing. Seasoned activists Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez and Andre Benjamin (who gets all the best lines) are unfurling banners from cranes and organising their protest operation. An anti-AIDS doctor prepares his presentation. Reporter Connie Nielsen is “just looking for a good story”. Cop Woody Harrelson attends pregnant wife Charlize Theron’s scan (bad omen alert!). Mayor Ray Liotta reassures everyone that nothing can possibly go wrong (even worse omen alert!).

hen we’re thrown into the riot, where these various characters cross each others’ paths, fatefully of course. Documentary footage and staged reconstructions effectively convey the action, but there’s more than a hint of Hollywood clich? to the storylines, and dialogue. Hearts change, inspirational speeches are made, and the politics get pushed into the background.

Mind you, it’s in no way boring to watch, and deserves credit simply for existing. To question what such a movie hopes to achieve is not all that different to questioning what the protesters themselves hoped to achieve. As Benjamin puts it at one point: “A week ago, nobody knew what the WTO was. They still don’t know what it is, but now at least they know it’s bad.”

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