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Scarecrow on Seattle: BATTLE IN SEATTLE

For the past few years, Scarecrow Video has been contributing reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. We're now proud to be able to share these reviews on our site as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 Battle In Seattle (2007)
Even if you didn't live in Seattle in November 1999, you knew the city was awash in protests over the World Trade Organization meeting that month. News reports told the world about clashes with police, tear gas, fires, looting, "no-protest zones" and general chaos. If you were here, you likely have a story about that infamous week in our city's history. That's probably why it's easy to nit and pick at Battle in Seattle. After the Opening Night screening at SIFF, writer/director Stuart Townsend spoke of the inspiration he drew from the protesters and was driven to represent their causes and struggles. But his closeness to the subject is the film's greatest weakness. It suffers from the over-earnestness of other movies like Bobby or Paul Haggis' Crash, where an ensemble cast attempts to represent too many sides of a story. There's Woody Harrelson as a Seattle SWAT cop, Charlize Theron as his pregnant wife who gets caught up in the rioting, Michelle Rodriguez and Andre "3000" Benjamin (in a turtle costume!) as protesters, Connie Nielsen as a reporter with shifting loyalties and Ray Liotta as a fictionalized version of Mayor Paul Schell. The film spends its 98 minutes rotating around the characters; we get a sound bite or two from them and move on, never getting too far into anyone's story to invest. What's more engaging than the diluted drama are spotting the geographic glitches. Townsend was smart to mix archival news footage into the film, but savvy Seattlites will notice resulting inaccuracies once the action shifts back to the actors. The strangest example of this comes at the beginning and end of the film. The opening scene shows a view of the city from Capitol Hill looking out to the Space Needle and the Olympics. Two protesters take a precarious trip up a construction crane somewhere close to Eastlake in the Denny Triangle area. They hang the now-iconic banner reading "DEMOCRACY" with an arrow pointing one way and "WTO" with an arrow pointing the other. The closing shot follows the same protesters down an empty 4th Avenue between the "Darth Vader" building and the Cinerama, showing the marquee that reads (as it did then, if memory serves) "Thanks WTO. It's Been A Riot." The camera pans down 4th and up to show the Space Needle. Yet somehow, the construction crane with the banner has drifted to Lower Queen Anne, as it's now right there next to the Space Needle. But again, it's easy to nit pick. It is oddly fascinating to see the complexities of the WTO protest and response condensed and dramatized into a feature film, and it's always great to see our city on film. But if you're looking for a harder look at that week, you'd be much better off with one of the WTO documentaries we have at Scarecrow.
--Jen Koogler

 

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