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Friday, October 3, 2008

Battle in Seattle- Great Message, But Weak Character Development

Yesterday evening, I went to the Ritz Theater here in Philly to check out the movie Battle in Seattle. I was a bit excited to see this movie due to having seen the previews and liking the action of what I saw. However, after seeing this movie, I must Say I was disappointed and wished their could have been more: more character development and less emphasis on riots and screaming. The one good thing is that this movie educated you on the World Trade Organization, made you more aware of its purpose if you were not already. This movie was directed and the screenplay was written by Stuart Townsend.

The story of Battle in Seattle revolves around a group of young, energetic activists who go to Seattle WA, to protest a meeting of the World Trade Organization. These activists hate all of what the World Trade Organization stands for, and are not afraid to interrupt sessions, hold protests, and even wrestle SWAT teams to get their point across. The strongest performance in this movie came from an actress who was not playing an activist but merely the wife of a SWAT team member, Charlize Theron.

Theron is a great actress in that she can complety absorb herself, become another person from another era. Whether it be playing an undercover Alien in the movie Hancock, or playing a wild and free spirit in the movie Monster, you can’t help but believe she is really her character. In Battle in Seattle, Theron plays a middle class, upwardly mobile wife to a hardworking yet caring SWAT team member (played by Woody Harrelson). In Theron’s performance, you see a quiet brewing of emotions. Her character Ella, is pregnant with her first child. Ella has to keep a calm presence around her friends, yet inside one can tell she is really worried about her husband, the work he has to do around the protesters. Theron shows this greatly in a scene at her job. Her friend asks her if she is worried that Dale, Woody Harrelson’s character, will get hurt with all the protests. Ella says no, but how Theron delivers this line and also the tension behind her coolness makes you think that something is troubling her. Also, when Ella tragically loses her baby due to being attacked during the protest, you feel the sadness of this woman through Theron’s emotional depth and humanness she puts to this role.

Martin Henderson, who played Jay, the leader of the activists, brought a passion to his role. Henderson gave Jay a warrior spirit, and you couldn’t help but admire what he does for his group, the extremes he goes to to fight for his cause. Even when Jay ends up in prison with the protestors, after being beat up badly in the riots, I felt a little sad for him; he truly was the ignition, the leader of the group. Andre Benjamin, who played the activist Django, in my opinion, was just ok in his role. He plays the happy, spirited member of the the activist group. I wish I could have seen more of his characters story; where did Django come from? How did he get into the activism? All of these questions were left unanswered, and I felt like Django could have been given more depth. Also, as a music fan of Andre Benjamin, I am not quite used to him as an actor yet. I believe if he gets more challenging roles, we could see more of his acting range ( hint, hint, the life story of Jimi Hendrix…he is the only one I can see playing this role!)

Michelle Rodriguez, her acting as Lou was OK, but she seemed to be too tough and sullen for me. I understand that her character was an activist, so she necessarily was not going to be playing a sweet role. However, as a woman, I wanted to see more of the emotional, sensitive side to her. Women can be strong, but we can also show feeling and have heart. I saw this sensitivity one time in Rodriguez’s performance. There is one scene in which she finds Jay in the prison. Ella and Jay are in love, but had to hold their love at pause due to the cause they were fighting. When Ella starts conversing with Jay again in the prison, she holds his hand and cries. I felt this was good acting by Rodriguez; I saw that tough exterior melting way for awhile. This created a very touching scene.

Overall, Battle in Seattle, it makes you root for the hardworking man and want to stand up and fight for what you believe. I liked that Stuart Townsend educated us movie goers On the World Trade Organization in the very beginning of the movie: many young people may want to go and learn more about this. Also, younger people who generally may not watch the news may start watching it more now after they see this movie. Townsend not only educated you about the World Trade Organization, but he broke the meanings of it down in very simple ways through colorful graphics, definitions of terms. My only regret for this movie is that it did not develop its characters at all: I didn’t learn where a majority of them came from, what their life stories were before activism. If Townsend had showed this, I believe this movie would have been much better.

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