This film is an attempt to produce an alternative version of the infamous Seattle WTO protests than the one produced by the mainstream media at the time, a version that was decidedly anti-protester and pro-WTO, pro-State of Washington, pro-Seattle. There’s an all-star cast – I mean, seriously, look at that cast – and the film mixes actual footage with recreations. Having experienced a lesser version of these events in the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010, I can say that this does, at times, recreate the craziness of urban protests when riot police get involved. But there are some, major, major problems that keep the film from being worth your time.
First, there is little to no character development. There are loads of characters, and we learn about a few of them, but more of them are just roles for the events to be hung upon. That might have worked if the rest of the film were okay, but, there’s a bigger problem.
The bigger problem is the dramatization. These are not real stories. Rather, they are stories created to represent the stories of real people who actually participated. There’s speechifying by people at the conference, speeches that likely never happened. And, worse, there are typical dramatic arcs for characters in this story, as if they were in a movie. And what I don’t understand, is why couldn’t the real story be told, instead of some elaborate, fictionalized version, that includes some ridiculous contrivances? The worst of which is the Charlize Theron character storyline, which can’t possibly have happened. (If it did, that should have been a major, major story, you would have thought…) But the Woody Harrelson-Martin Henderson one is nearly as contrived. This stuff doesn’t happen.
Finally, the film is preaching to the converted, rather than attempting to show that these are just people like you and I, trying to express themselves. Nobody who dislikes political protests will be convinced by this film.
A missed opportunity to expose people to a more accurate version of the protests.