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Battle in Seattle
1 review

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Stuart Townsend

Written By:
Stuart Townsend

Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, Ray Liotta, Rade Serbedzija, Ivana Milicevic, Joshua Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Channing Tatum, Tobias Mehler, Ryan McDonald, Alistair Abell, Paul Anthony, Daniel Bacon, Mark Brandon, Jennifer Carpenter, Louis Chirillo, Isaach De Bankolé, Mark Gibson, Gina Holden, Gary Hudson, Dee Jay Jackson, Christopher Jacot, Ken Kirzinger, Nels Lennarson, Tzi Ma, Kelly-Ruth Mercier, Chris Robson, Peter Shinkoda, Haskell Wexler, Marsha Regis, Matthew MacCaull, Richard Hendery, Michael Agostini, Alberta Mayne, Richard Ian Cox, Kelly King, Brett Dier, Adrian Holmes, André Benjamin, Barbara Tyson, Deborah DeMille, Tony Alcantar, Douglas Arthur, Lindsay Bourne, Debra Donohue, Michael Taylor Donovan, Glenn Ennis, Austin Farwell, Tyler Hazelwood, Adrian Holmes, Adrian Hough, Lear Howard, Dean Moen, Linda Muir, Joel Ross, Alberto Valenzuela, Kyle J.M. Thompson, Max Teichan, Rik Deskin, Yaroslav Poverlo, Arminder Randhawa

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Battle in Seattle (2008)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
October 9th, 2008

'Battle in Seattle' is a dramatic and partially fictionalized account of the protests that rocked Seattle in 1999, during a WTO summit meeting. Thousands of activists arrived to voice their criticism of the World Trade Organization and its policies abroad, and while the demonstration started off peacefully, it eventually turned into a riot that pitted the protesters against the National Guard and local police units. The film marks the directorial debut of actor Stuart Townsend, and while a drama inspired by these events, it is also like a documentary in the way it presents information about the WTO, offering insight into how the organization works, and why it is so unpopular.

There are books and documentaries that explain in much greater detail how the WTO is biased in favor of rich nations, and how it frequently shelters multinational corporations that operate in poorer countries, while saddling those countries with unrealistic expectations that, if unfulfilled, will sabotage their chances of membership, if they desire to join. The kind of free trade espoused by the WTO also encourages outsourcing, so many Americans dislike it (and NAFTA), because they see it as a threat to American sovereignty, and detrimental to the economy, since factories and companies can find cheaper labor elsewhere, can pay less for more employees (taken from the masses of India, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, to name just a few places). The movie is passionate and compelling, honing in on a handful of individuals who are caught up in the chaos.

Dale (Woody Harrelson) represents the anxiety of the cops on the scene, as the violence escalates, they respond with force in order to subdue the protesters and arrest them, to stop or, at best, contain the riots before they spread to other parts of the city. Dale is conflicted about how to deal with the crisis, and, to make matters worse, his pregnant wife Ella (Charlize Theron) is trapped in the crowd, and is subsequently beaten by his comrades in blue. There is the frightening possibility that her experience could result in a miscarriage.

Dale allows us to see things from a cop's perspective, and while one could certainly cite this as an example of police brutality, Townsend carefully considers the surrounding circumstances, and how quickly the situation spiraled out of control; the police are committed to maintaining public order, and a disturbance of this magnitude is bound to require a spontaneous reaction, and the adoption of tactics that otherwise may be excessive or even unethical. Things could certainly have been worse if there had been no police intervention at all. Then, there is the perspective of the protesters themselves, represented by Jay (Martin Henderson), one of the main leaders and organizers of the protest.

He is romantically involved with a female protester named Lou (Michelle Rodriguez), and has numerous disagreements with her and others about how the protest should be structured, and what it should try to accomplish. Townsend illustrates the admirable idealism of the protesters, and how their opposition to the WTO emanates from a sense of social and economic justice, also fueled by an aversion to capitalism and ideological grounding in Marxist or socialist principles. The romantic subplot is entirely unnecessary, and feels obligatory. Then, there is the perspective of the bystander, represented by Jean (Connie Nielsen), a sympathetic news reporter.

As for what sparked the riots, Townsend blames radical anarchists, who use the protests as an opportunity to communicate their message with violence, rather than merely holding signs and chanting slogans. Is violence more effective than passivity? Violence, at least, has a more immediate effect, and cannot easily be ignored, but it does invite reprisal and tarnish the image of those who perpetrate it. The alternative is the Gandhi approach, which is what Jay and his gang subscribe to. Their whole mission is undermined by the outbreak of violence, and the protest becomes a media frenzy, the substance of it lost amidst the hysteria.

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