Battle in Seattle (2008)



Critic Consensus: Well intentioned and passionate, this docu-drama about the 1999 WTO protests is heavier on politics than character development.

Movie Info

Actor-turned-filmmaker Stuart Townsend makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with this ensemble film set during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and presenting the riots that swept through the streets during the five-day conference from the perspectives of police, protestors, and city officials. A typically laid-back Northwestern city, Seattle would erupt into violence when, for five days in 1999, tens of thousands of protestors flooded the streets to voice their … More

Rating: R (for language and some violence)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Directed By:
Written By: Stuart Townsend
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 10, 2009
Redwood Palms Pictures - Official Site


as Mayor Jim Tobin

as Governor

as Dr. Maric

as Himself
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Critic Reviews for Battle in Seattle

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (23)

It sheds much needed light on a mostly forgotten event in our country's history.

Full Review… | November 6, 2008
At the Movies
Top Critic

What I think the movie failed to do was the thing it had to do most, which was explain what is the WTO and why in Stuart Townshend's opinion, is it bad.

Full Review… | November 6, 2008
At the Movies
Top Critic

If current events hold, Battle in Seattle could look like prophecy as well as history.

Full Review… | October 17, 2008
Toronto Star
Top Critic

There is a monster in Battle in Seattle, but it never speaks and remains mysterious.

Full Review… | October 17, 2008
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Actor-turned writer-director Stuart Townsend makes great use of the documentary footage of the '99 Seattle WTO riots. And he gets across his talking points about this shadowy outfit, too. It's a shame his script and all his actor friends get in the way.

Full Review… | October 16, 2008
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

It's the next best thing to being there, in that it's likely to make shuddering viewers intensely glad that they weren't.

Full Review… | September 26, 2008
AV Club
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Battle in Seattle

I consider this movie more like documentary more than a real movie although it's based on true events. I thought this movie was intriguing but vague in certain ways. It has some very good actors in it though that make it interesting...

Its November 1999, and five days are about to rock the world as tens of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of Seattle in protest of the World Trade Organizations Ministerial Meeting. Among them are Django (Andre Benjamin), Sam (Jennifer Carpenter), Lou (Michelle Rodriguez) and Jay (Martin Henderson). Each has a unique story, but they're united in a common desire to be heard and to make a difference in the world. For these four protesters, this is very personal and the stakes are higher than mere politics.

A peaceful demonstration to stop the WTO talks quickly escalates into a full-scale riot, and soon a State of Emergency is declared by the Mayor of Seattle. The streets are mayhem, and the WTO is paralyzed. Caught in the crossfire of civil liberties and keeping the peace are Seattle residents, including its beleaguered mayor (Ray Liotta), a riot cop on the streets (Woody Harrelson) and his pregnant wife (Charlize Theron). The choices they all make will change their lives forever.

Writer/Director Stuart Townsend brings together this talented ensemble to intertwine different points of view from protesters and police to delegates and doctors -- each of whom intentionally or accidentally find themselves on the streets of Seattle in those last days of the millennium. Townsend seamlessly merges footage of the real event with his fictional narrative. Ultimately, Battle in Seattle illustrates that even against incredible odds, ordinary people can change the world.

Manu Gino

Super Reviewer


"We are still fighting the Battle"

Actor-turned-filmmaker Stuart Townsend makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with this ensemble film set during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and presenting the riots that swept through the streets during the five-day conference from the perspectives of police, protestors, and city officials. A typically laid-back Northwestern city, Seattle would erupt into violence when, for five days in 1999, tens of thousands of protestors flooded the streets to voice their disapproval of the high-profile World Trade Organization conference. Among that sea of protestors are Django (André Benjamin), Sam (Jennifer Carpenter), Jay (Martin Henderson), and Lou (Michelle Rodriguez) -- each convinced that the stakes go beyond politics and equally determined to make a difference by ensuring that their voice of dissent is heard by the masses. At first the demonstration is peaceful, but in an instant the streets explode and the WTO is paralyzed. As a full-scale riot commences and a state of emergency is declared, the residents of Seattle are caught in the crossfire between protestors and police. With beleaguered mayor Jim Tobin (Ray Liotta) scrambling to diffuse tensions and riot cop Dale Anderson (Woody Harrelson) racing to protect his pregnant wife, Ella (Charlize Theron), everyone involved is forced to make difficult decisions that are sure to change their lives forever.

What a surprise that there are actually people interested in making films like this. I must question, however, as the head activist did in the film, what these activists actually accomplished? I believe it is better to work with one's brains than actually provoke such direct antagonism in order to achieve the goals which this film so proudly and courageously professes. A general strike would be the vehicle to get people's attention, but I am not sure that these are the kind of groups with so much hatred which would attract a general demographic. They should try to become calm and rethink their long term strategy. The correct overview of the ensuing five years of the convention at the end of the film points to the fact that no significant gains were made.

That, and work with young people, not old, to get them thinking and about and acting on the problems of our world. It would be great if they could be reached before high school, but most probably in high school and college is where the ideological education must be perused. All in all a very good film which does make people feel as well as think.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

A really political drama which doesn't quite delve to deeply into the politics... which I think was criticised by some, but I found it was probably better off without.

The story is based on the 1999 Seattle riots over the WTO meeting. While the characters are not factual, they are built up quite well, especially Martin Henderson's character who was outstanding I think.

The cast is an ensemble of familiar faces, from Hollywood A list to TV stars, Veterans and Young stars, international and domestic. This is a great ensemble, they pulled it off so well, I was suprised by the efforts of the young and up coming stars like Henderson, Andre Benjamin and Channing Tatum and expected no less from the likes of Liotta, Sherbedziga, Neilsen and Woody Harrelson, whom Ive missed in the movies' and they all delivered some of their best performances. The movie was about the characters and the emotional and physical trauma of the events of the battle, and they did great. A near perfect cast for a movie which I think can appeal to a wide audience.

The secrets of this movie?

First of all, it opens up interestingly enough around 10 stories high. XD! Yep, protesters doing their job. And within 20 minutes, the movie had sped up to the start of the main event. No lounging around, no beating around the bush or whatever people use terms for boredom. This I really appreciated, as these type of movies tend to have a slow start. A speedy entrance could have spoiled the quality and left blanks, but in this case, it began simply and effectively, the movie exploring the events of 4 days of turmoil through the eyes of protesters , police and the embattled Mayor played excellently by Liotta. The movie's pace only begins to slow down in the final 25 mins, which I guess is appropriate, as the excitement and drama subsides, and to a clear and cut ending of half week turmoil.

The cast and their respective roles were tailor made and fit like the proverbial gloves. You cannot help but sympathise with, laugh, cry or feel the anger, pain and other emotions they bring out, the movie brings out and raises your awareness tenfold.

The script is absolutely outstanding. Everyone in their pivotal moments said the right words perfectly. They were simple, straightforward, easily comprehensible and very effective. My favourite lines was Sherbedziga losing his cool at the leaders walking out on his speech for introducing better medical for third world nations, and the awesome ownage delivered at the end by Isaach De Bankolé (made famous in Casino Royale) a scalding attack on the First World representatives at the WTO meeting which led to the fall out of the event.

The simplicity of how a politically tense, natured and really confusing issue was well done. I don't see how anyone can fail to understand the messages and the different views being delivered here. I guess the high energy and emotions coupled with the great script made this possible.

Choosing your side or view. the multi viewpoints from the Mayor of Seattle to the government, the police, the protesters whether peaceful or violent, the innocent, portrayed by Charlize Theron, the confused or simply, just don't care. But one way or the other, you will have decided on a view by the end of this movie. To have a movie giving you so many choices to understand, to see the characters making those choices themselves only brought me further into the movie, engaging me on all levels from entertaining to intellectual. Greatly appreciated this subtle viewer engagement by the director.

The vivid and sharp camera work was good. Not particularly great, but good enough so you don;t miss any of the action and drama. Based on real events, some great real life footage is thrown in, and the slide show at the end was amusing, thoughtful and eye opening as well. Gotta love movies based on real events.

For Stuart Townsends directorial debut, this is a complete surprise and a wonderful effort for anyone. The topic and issues, interesting and original. The clear messages of the WTO and Townsend's views do come through clear, but I don't mind. The movie is a work of art, and each artwork is biased, opinionated and delivered. what makes a good work of art is how it is portrayed and delivered... and this is definitely well delivered.

The music score I was indifferent about, it was not as engaging as the rest of the movie. I guess Massive Attack doesn't engage me any more, or he was probably the only real mistake of the film. I just didn't pay attention to the music, it didn't click. Not to say it didn't work for the movie, but I appreciate a good score to the movie, and I guess this is where it failed for me. it did take the shine of what is probably a great movie.

I don't know how, but this became one of my favourite movies of the year, and its going on my favourites list. I don't think many would react as I would to this, but Im a fan of ensembles and fast paced movies, and the realism probably was the thing that made up my mind to watch this. I remember the Seattle Riots back in High School, and I remember in latter years coming to understanding it and the issues better and better, and its great to see this come to the big screen.

One reviewer said he thought it was a bad TV movie.... but Townsend made it awesome. Luckily this didnt become a mini series, it would have just been inundated with useless facts, issues and scenes which would have made it boring, dull, and no entertainment value.

Two thumbs up and a must see.

Khris N

Super Reviewer

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