In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_mv5bmje1mzi2mzcxov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnte2mjk4nte_._v1__sx1216_sy640_

Cartel Land

The film provides a fascinating, on-the-ground account of people struggling with situations that range from challenging to horrific.

Thumb_large_nxcfdsanskih09xq74fjnyhw4g0

Stray Dog

"Stray Dog" largely succeeds because Granik's technique complements her subject. Both he and the film are modest in their goals and cherish the value of…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Battle in Seattle

Battle in Seattle Movie Review
  |  

"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.

Those glitches aside, "Battle in Seattle" makes a case for the way the WTO punishes Third World nations, allows the dumping of surpluses that drive workers away from jobs and is managed for the benefit of fat-cat nations. Some of the disagreement about the big Wall Street bailout reflects anger about the way money protects itself; should there be even a question that the executives who steered their companies into bankruptcy should be stripped of their multimillion-dollar bonuses?

Most people have never quite understood why there are protests worldwide about the WTO. "Battle in Seattle," which marks the feature-film directorial debut by actor Stuart Townsend, has a commendable prologue and some dialogue that helps explain, but for a very moving ground-level documentary that makes it all crystal clear, you might want to rent "Life and Debt" (2001), which is a closeup portrait of the destruction of small Jamaican farmers and the exploitation of workers. Would you believe the WTO pushes Third World nations into establishing poverty-wage barbed-wire enclaves for multinational corporations, inside of which local laws and protections do not apply?

My review of "Life and Debt" is online at www.rogerebert.com.

Popular Blog Posts

Why Can't Sad Be Fat?

A rebuttal to Joni Edelman's piece on "Inside Out."

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part 19: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

The July 2015 edition of The Unloved looks at Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert...

Magic Lantern Show: The Sensual Pleasures of "The Third Man"

On the look and sound of "The Third Man."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus