Battle in Seattle - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Battle in Seattle Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 6, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
½ September 30, 2008
"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.
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2008
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.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]While "Battle in Seattle" may not exactly be in the same league as "Bloody Sunday" (using unfamiliar actors would have definitely added to the realism), it is still an impressively effective dramatization of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle with footage of the actual events mixed in. In order to make us understand what there is to protest, the movie starts with a brief history of the World Trade Organization(WTO). Trust me. It is not pretty.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]What however is, is the first shot of the movie of a protester(Michelle Rodriguez) hanging from a crane over downtown Seattle, successfully hanging a banner under the direction of Jay(Martin Henderson), the coordinator of the peaceful protests which the mayor(Ray Liotta) has allowed under the false presumption that they cannot halt the WTO meetings which are meant to give the city some prestige. On the first day, the protesters outflank his police and disrupt downtown, even as Dr. Maric(Rade Serbedzija) of Doctors without Borders, and Abassi(Isaach De Bankole), an African representative, hope to get their voices heard inside the barricades.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]While "Battle in Seattle" tells the story of these fateful days from a variety of viewpoints which also include a television reporter(Connie Nielsen) and a policeman(Woody Harrelson) whose pregnant wife(Charlize Theron), a store clerk who is caught up in the mayhem in downtown, the main focus is on the protesters(But nothing on the anarchists, though.) with some unnecessary backstory added in. The question should not be why the protesters were there but why there were not more people since a citizen's responsibilty does not simply end with the vote. And a protest is not about winning or losing, but about making one's collective voice heard by an organization that is uninterested in listening to the common people. This particular protest was the start of something special, as one character remarks that this is the first protest of the age of the internet.[/font]
Super Reviewer
September 13, 2009
I was very impressed with Stuart Townsend's directing for this film. The film had a style and look similar to films like Syriana and 21 Grams. Great performances by this ensemble. It was shot and edited well. I definitely recommend this powerful film.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2008
Something just doesn't gel here. There are some good performances but the message gets lost. More background on the role of the WTO played out on screen rather than in the prologue and ending would have made this tale more poignant.
Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2008
It presents both viewpoints somewhat, more so at the beginning, and all the pieces were there but a typical L.A. douche bag audience nearly ruined it for me.
Super Reviewer
½ April 3, 2008
A tremendously contrived docudrama set during the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle.
Super Reviewer
½ December 8, 2007
Phenomenal depiction of the most memorable event in modern U.S. history: the 1999 WTO protest in Seattle. It was initially organized to be held as a peaceful protest but later unraveled in chaos. Encountered as a riot, individuals caught within the protest zones engage and counteract with the city police. Stuart Townsend takes the lead as director and producer, and does a remarkable job accomplishing the overall sequences of events. Martin Henderson, Andre Benjamin, Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Carpenter, Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Channing Tatum, and Ray Liotta stars. Definitely worth seeing!
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2009
Although the event was an important lesson for future manifestations across the globe, director Stuart Townsend fails to illustrate what his purpose in making the film is. However, as viewers, we understand that the demonstrators are fighting for the population whereas the political leaders are only interested in money.
Another important aspect in the film is that it depicts the WTO issues which are widely criticized, but not everyone is aware of its consequences.

Overall, two things. 1)Townsend should have made a documentary because there is much more to this WTO subject. 2) This film is a big smack in the face with this modern economic crisis!
Super Reviewer
½ October 19, 2008
Battle in Seattle is based on the true story of how protesters stopped the WTO meetings seen threw the eyes of a bunch of different people the protesters as they fight to be heard while being attacked and arrested by police, the police trying to stop the protesting and do what it takes to calm the city, the mayor of the city as he tries to keep things from getting out of hand and the representives of the countries in the WTO meetings. A really well done movie with a perfect cast should be checked out.
½ September 23, 2014
Unconvincing great intentions for a worthy cause. I just wish it were to WTO what Blackfish was to Sea World.
½ May 31, 2014
Moral of the story is that nothing will ever change in politics and expressing your freedom of speech comes with a hevy price, that it simply isn't worth the hassle. Inspired me to do NOTHING.
April 22, 2014
This docu-drama about the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999 is made in the same style as "Bloody Sunday", "United 93", and "Battle for Haditha": it just shows events in real time without comment. We follow everyone here from the ground up; the protest groups, the cops on the street, their commanders, city officials, a news reporter, and innocent bystanders. Maybe the scenes with the news reporter are the least fleshed out, but that's a fairly minor complaint for a movie that is very involving and entertaining and thought-provoking. Woody Harrelson and Charlize Theron are very good, as usual, and Michelle Rodriguez is perfectly cast. One of the big surprises here is Andre Benjamin, from Outkast fame, who delivers a fine supporting performance; he's irreverent but very smart. Ray Liotta is very effective as the mayor, and the film does a great job of seeing the complexities in elected officials as he struggles to please all sides; he is looking for the protesters to behave while also wanting the WTO to address important issues.

This lame film sets a terribly-written fictional narrative against the backdrop of the 1999 riots in Seattle that occurred during the meeting of the World Trade Organization. Director Stuart Townsend, who is also responsible for the juvenile screenplay, concocts ridiculous and melodramatic situations out of a scenario that already had enough dramatic heft of its own without embellishment.
Townsend creates a group of stock characters that includes the beleaguered Seattle mayor (Ray Liotta); a couple of protesters (Martin Henderson and Michelle Rodriquez) whom the screenplay forces into an awkward and unnecessary romance; a reporter (Connie Nielsen) who actually joins the protesters(!) after she witnesses some police brutality (I'm not making this up); and a police officer (Woody Harrelson) and his pregnant wife (Charlize Theron) whose lives are altered dramatically by the events of those few days. These actors are put into narrative situations that a 16-year-old would come up with if he were asked to jot down a bunch of scenarios that he thought would have a dramatic impact on his audience. Therefore, everything is hokey and maudlin to the extreme. The story line involving Theron, in particular, actually made me angry because of its cheap tactics.

You don't get real idea of what the protesters were protesting about. Very much like the real protesters who were a mish mash of anarchists, drop-outs, ravers/party goers, manic depressives, attention seekers, show offs, chancers, and total dreamers. None of whom have any idea of reality because they cannot use logical thought processes.

Anyway, Charlize Theron spends most of the movie crying in bed ignoring her husband Woody Harrleson who plays one of the riot police officers. I had high hopes for Theron when I first saw her years ago but she sure knows how to pick bad scripts and I do think her career is suffering from it. Woody (like Theron) will have been drawn to the project because of his environmental background and on paper he must have thought it would be a good move to accept the role. He, and Theron are both lucky the movie didn't finish their careers off. Ray Liotta plays the Seattle Mayor. The Mayor seems like a decent trusting guy but is essentially betrayed by the protesters rampage. Liottas performance, as well as Theron and Harrleson were mediocre at best. I don't blame them though. Clearly the director has absolutely no idea how to coax a performance from actors and if I were to hedge a bet I would say the director was personally caught up (emotionally) due to his obvious political views. Nothing wrong with putting your case forward in a movie, but you have to do it right and provoke a reaction from the audience, make them think. This completely fails to do that. The man completely forgot he was making a movie and like most extreme leftists the idea is always better than the reality.

As you watch you will care nothing for any of the characters in the movie. Your constantly hoping something will happen, it never does because quite frankly very little actually happened in Seattle over those few days. A few protesters running around smashing windows will not give anyone the ammunition to make a full 90 minute movie.

Its quite telling that since the movies release two years ago it only has around 40 reviews on IMDb. Just goes to show that no one, not even the protesters give a damn about this movie. They are probably to embarrassed.

The favourable reviews of which there are far to many can only be from a few dreamers and those with an agenda. But seriously, pay them no attention because this is a really bad movie no matter what side of the political spectrum you come from.

This movie was pretty darn bad. There were heaps of cringe-inducing lines of dialog and generally mediocre acting. To their credit, the principal actors didn't have much to work with, especially Ms. Theron. Her ability was absolutely wasted since her character spends most of her on screen time whimpering and moaning. The standout performance was from Andre, who was able to use his few good lines to create a likable character.

The script was absolutely contrived and there were too many moments of incredulity. The fictionalized events that were "inserted" were hamhanded and obvious, and some downright insultingly so. There were a handful of "serious" moments that caused a laugh and too few "funny" moments that inspired one.
June 29, 2012
Townsend had a chance to explain why the protestors were there and missed his chance. He made the protesters look like unemployed disaffected slackers. Some may have been, but the majority were not. I do like that he highlighted the fact that most wanted a peaceful, non-destructive protest and a small minority thought vandalism was the way to go. Also he got the emotions right, the conflict felt by some in government, police, media and unaware bystanders. But he missed on the rest of this. He should have done more research.
½ March 21, 2012
The 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle is a great topic for the film, and it was interesting to follow the protest organizers, understanding their tactics, motivations, and will. There's a few cliche things that remind you it's a movie, but it's still a worthwhile effort.
½ September 15, 2011
This movie succeeds far more as series of political statements than as a character drama. However, Townsend manages to blend to two together with some measure of balance, and the end product is as enlightening as it is invigorating. Perhaps the most notable feature is the artful tie-ins of real-life footage of the riots, giving the narrative a dimension and edge that otherwise would not have been supplied, either by the script or the characters.
July 4, 2011
Gritty film. Puts you in the middle of a large scale protest against the WTO. Excellent performances and superb cinematography provide us with a realistic and accurate portrayal of various "sides" in these types of protests.
½ April 13, 2011
The untouchable aristocracy of the world exploits the people of the world in order to gain more power and profit. Peaceful protestors get teargased and put in jail against their constitutional rights, while the real perpetrators can worsen millions of people's lives without any legal consequences because they are being backed up by the government. Therefore, and despite nice ideals like democracy, we still live in a class society, even though a government's principal purpose is to provide the best environment possible for its people and not for its minority of aristocrats.

The police is not the evil that has to be fought, for it is an institution that is intended to guarantee safety for the people. Unfortunately, the police is sometimes misused by its authorities to do the exact opposite. The real evil that has to be fought are the leaders of the WTO who value profit over human rights. So it is in a way ridiculous that police and peaceful protestors for justice have to fight another.

Interestingly, it is not the governor or the mayor who are forced to resign in the aftermath of this disaster, but only the police chief who really also only followed the orders of his superiors.

Even though many people seem to criticize the fictional characters and the acting, really they are good actors and filmmakers. Come on, could you do better job?
If at all there is something to criticize then it would be that you might have to have some pre-knowledge about the Global Justice Movement in order to understand everything that is presented in the movie. However, even when this movie is the entrance into a new area for you, there is a lot to get out of and it makes you want to know more.

The is a great movie and a topic that everyone should know about.
I highly recommended it.
February 8, 2011
Though acting isn't great, still I, as a primary source of the Battle In Seattle find this movie to be factual and very very real.

The story behind this film is a true one. It is about the historic protest that took place in Seattle Washington on November 30, 1999. The protesters were protesting the WTO (World Trade Orginization) Ministerial Conference of 1999. What happened was a peaceful protest turned to the type of chaos you'd see in the middle of a battlefield. The anarchists showed up, started vandalizing and everything went to hell, cops were tear gassing, beating, and pepper spraying protesters at complete random which led to controversey concerning our freedom of speech.

This film brings many flashbacks. The whole story is so real and vivid, not to the average viewer but to a person who was actually in the mess this movie describes. Much of what is in this film is real, archived footage, which can be appreciated only by those who experienced the Battle In Seattle.

However, like many other films, this one has many flaws that aren't all that difficult to point out. The staging could have been better than it was, same with the cinematography, but the big problem to me was the cast and the acting. The problem with the cast is it has a bunch of never-heard-of actors with the one well-known actor, in this case, Woody Harrelson, who just doesn't fit in. Woody Harrelson at his most average performance towers over the rest of the cast leading towards a uneven, one-sided acting performance.

Overall this movie was alright. While the acting, casting, cinematography, and staging were off, the reality of this movie makes up for it. This movie sends a very good message to all of us. This movie points out that we as American citizens have the right to peaceful protest and that it is not the police department's right to decide what we can and can't say.

Overall 60%, good job with a good message, protect our rights.
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