This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"Battle in Seattle" takes the actual 1999 protests against a summit meeting of the World Trade Organization and uses them as a backdrop for a fictional story about characters swept up in the tumult. The result is not quite a documentary and not quite a drama, but interesting all the same. It uses the approach of Haskell Wexler's "Medium Cool" (1969), but without the same urgency; Wexler's actors were plunged into the actual demonstrations at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, and "Battle" is not as convincing.
Much of the story involves an unnecessary romantic attraction between Jay (Martin Henderson), leader of the protesters, and Lou (Michelle Rodriguez), a member of the movement. They have to have disputes about tactics and motivations, etc., while drawing closer together, and in this context, they're just a distraction.
More to the point is Dale, the cop (Woody Harrelson) whose pregnant wife (Charlize Theron), a bystander, is caught up in the crowd and beaten by police. Dale asks for leave time, but is ordered back on the street by his commanding officer and releases his grief through rage. Harrelson's emotional arc in the film is convincing and effective.
But what to make of Jean, the TV newswoman (Connie Nielsen), who plunges with her cameraman into the thick of the fighting, ignores orders from her station and becomes sympathetic? Yes, it happens (a lot of reporters covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina vented their anger at FEMA). That's not the problem. What seems odd is that she always seems to be at the crossroads between the action and the film's subplots, always is there for dramatic moments on video, and most of the time is the only TV news presence in the movie. Street reporters and their camera operators tend to congregate at the same hotspots.