A mere couple of weeks after a polarizing Republican National Convention, it will be difficult for some of us to criticize a film like Battle in Seattle. For many, Stuart Townsend’s ensemble fictionalization of the 1999 protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle may strike a welcome note, harkening back to a triumphant, nonviolent-turned-violent demonstration which caused —directly or indirectly—a collapse in trade negotiations that even some participants characterized as imbalanced. Townsend’s film portrays this moment as a victory for the antiglobalization movement (and the Left, broadly defined), an example of how public opinion, voiced loudly and peaceably, can effect great change in a world that too often seems governed by cronyism and corporate interest.
And yet, for all its good intentions and its inspirational advocacy for freedom of speech and assembly, Battle in Seattle remains a difficult film to get up and shout about. Approaching its subject with a neat idealism and packaging its political fervor in the most facile of forms, the film boasts a cast loaded with Hollywoods both new and old and wraps its message up with eye-rolling naivete. As such, it seems factory-built to inspire political activism in a young audience—a commendable enough intention — but its plotting is so obvious, its characters so thinly archetypal, that both the film’s logic and its effectiveness become highly questionable.
Click here to read the rest of Leo Goldsmith’s review of Battle in Seattle.