Marching between your ears at a theater near you ["Battle in Seattle"]
“One down, a million to go.” The same character who almost imperceptibly tosses up this one-liner delivers a more fleshed out idea in an earlier pronouncement: “A week ago nobody knew what the hell the WTO was ... they still don't know what the WTO is … at least they know it's bad.”
WTO stands for the World Trade Organization. As you might expect from any commitment to making the world safe for corporate power, these guys probably do more harm than good. The film “Battle in Seattle” makes shallow effort educating us about the WTO, perhaps because it knows such would be a tall order in a dramatic motion picture. That aspect aside, the film sustains gut wrenching tension as it covers the massive protests and police action that crimped the WTO’s 1999 “Millennium Conference.”
What “Battle in Seattle” lacks in exposing the real workings of a mechanism we know too little about, it compensates by bringing us closer to the front lines of activism. It shows something of the challenged commitment involved to mount an effective mass demonstration of dissent. It also shows something of how the bridled tactics of enforcement hope to avert a public relations disaster. Where they intersect ain’t tidy, although this film runs much closer to neat than chaotic.
Movie-goers who want to stoke their fire against exploitative global superstructure can do so fairly well seeing “Battle in Seattle.” Movie goers who prefer a relatively easy dose of rough awareness can find that fairly well seeing this film.
Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson and Ray Liotta do a creditable job downplaying the Hollywood driven elements of the film. Theron carves an appealing presence as the key innocent bystander. Harrelson locks in as an intensely caught-up cop. Liotta does a solid job trying to be an enlightened mayor in a boiling soup.
“Battle in Seattle,” in less than a two-hour movie slot, immerses you in one of those million things marching between your ears.