Battle in Seattle (2007)
|Category||Docudrama||Main Menu Animation-Alternating panels of stills and live-action thumbnails.|
|Year Of Production||2007|
|Running Time||95:11 (Case: 100)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Stuart Townsend|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Robert del Naja
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan Encoded||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Credits at close of film|
Recently released on DVD by Buena Vista is Battle in Seattle, a docu-drama based on true events surrounding the 1999 Seattle World Trade summit. Not having received a cinema release in Australia, this is our first chance to see this first feature from writer / director Stuart Townsend. This is an extremely important subject, tackled head-on by the film-maker. Judged on this work alone, Townsend already is an admirable director and writer of screen action. In creating character and dialogue he is not so successful.
Townsend, formerly an actor (Queen of the Damned), gives his audience, even those not acquainted with these events, a solid basis for the drama to come with the film's documentary opening clearly and briefly giving the background to the summit. "Powers that be" in Seattle had lobbied for years for the WTO summit meeting to be held in their city, aiming to further enhance Seattle's trading prospects. However, the largely liberal population of Seattle had problems with the WTO's attitude towards the environment, free trade and health issues, the organization being viewed as putting profit ahead of humanitarian and ecological interests. These local activists were joined by supporters from around the world, their ranks swelling to forty thousand. Initially the street protests were optimistically orderly, vibrant expressions of popular opinion, but over the next five days days these rallies degenerated into violence, destruction and brutality. Townsend states at the beginning that his film "is inspired by real events", and he depicts these events dramatically, and often brilliantly, on the screen. Using hand-held cameras and 16mm film, Townsend blends the new footage seamlessly with archival footage. Director of photography Barry Ackroyd (United 93), assisted by the work of editor Fernando Villena, achieves some wonderful integration and interaction between images from these two sources. Townsend has combined these visuals with an often sensational and enveloping soundtrack, resulting in our total immersion in the violence on the screen.
The second half of Townsend's opening statement says that while the events were real, "the characters in (the film) are fictional", and it is with this humanising of the events that the film is less successful. Townsend the writer tells his story through a group of disparate characters, whose lives occasionally collide. It would seem obvious that the intention is to weave a tapestry of characters, involving politicians, cops, activists and bystanders. When the director/writer allows the actions to speak for themselves, as in the Harrelson / Theron scenes, he creates potent drama. It is when he allows his creations to speak that the writer stumbles, particularly in the pronouncements of the activists - "Just how long have we been trying to save the planet?" Unfortunately there are just too many of these characters, and, despite the efforts of a stellar cast, we are mostly left with clichéd stereotypes delivering clichéd dialogue. Through the hours of three days we follow four protesters, Jay (Martin Henderson from The Ring), Lou (Michelle Rodriguez from Lost), Sam (Jennifer Carpenter from Dexter) and Django (Andre Benjamin). Add to this mix hard-bitten cop (Channing Tatum), fast talking reporter (Connie Nielsen from One Hour Photo), riot police officer Dale (Woody Harrelson), his pregnant wife, Ella (Charlize Theron) and Mayor Jim Tobin (Ray Liotta). These are without exception shallowly conceived characters, but the playing of them by the interesting cast endows them with more interest than the writing warrants. Liotta is very effective as the torn mayor, while Woody Harrelson, partnered by Townsend's off-screen love, Charlize Theron, deserves special mention for his sensitive and moving contribution. Theron, too, is extremely good, particularly in the dynamically realistic sequence when she is caught up in the violence of the streets.
This is a commendable and important documentary drama that deserves to be seen. Townsend has succeeded in educating an audience to his cause, while at the same time delivering mostly effective screen entertainment. With the added bonuses of superb work in visuals and audio, this is a film that will make you think while delivering quite a dramatic wallop. The next film from this director should be worth waiting for - so long as he employs someone else to write the dialogue.
Director Stuart Townsend has striven to give his film a documentary look. This decision has obviously been taken so as to be able to seamlessly integrate archival footage of the Seattle violence into his film. The hand-held cameras are used with admirable control - enough "wobble" to give an "authentic" feel without distracting attention from the action.
The is a single-layered disc, with the film presented in a 16x9 enhanced transfer at the ratio of 1.78:1, the original having been 1.85:1.
As a consequence of having been shot on 16 mm film, the image is decidedly inferior to what we would expect from a mainstream film.
There are some scenes which are quite sharp, but for the most part the image has a considerable amount of grain.
Black levels are a little dark in a number of sequences, but shadow detail is reasonable and I was not aware of any low level noise.
The colour palette is wide, but a little subdued to blend with the archival footage, as well as reflecting the cold Seattle winter.
Mostly the skin tones are very good.
The US transfer is said to have aliasing problems, but I was not aware of any on this disc.
There are no subtitles.
There is one audio stream, Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.
The audio on this film is excellent, not what you might expect from a low-budget docu-drama.
US reviews have mentioned problems with dialogue, both with sync and intelligibility. Not so with the Region 4 disc. I consider myself to be very sensitive to any sync aberration, and I detected not the slightest instance of this problem. Every word of the dialogue was also crystal clear.
This is not a film where the "effects" appear, or sound to be, overlayed onto the filming itself. Almost without pause we are surrounded by peripheral sound, front and rear. There is extensive movement across the front, SFX and dialogue, and in the street scenes of the "battle" the rears surround us with the sounds of this violence - sirens, explosions, whizzing bullets and screams. This is a real audio experience, with the sub-woofer contributing to the overall impact without any exaggeration purely for effect.
The music of the film, from Robert Del Naja and Neil Davidge, is varied and provides an exciting and disturbing edge to the film, all beautifully reproduced through the entire sound system. This music brilliantly mirrors the energy and violence portrayed on the screen.
Wind your system up and really enjoy this soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
This disc has virtually no extras. The Region 1 release has an audio commentary by Stuart Townsend and editor Fernando Villena, as well as the theatrical trailer.
A fairly basic screen with five panels of stills from the film. Every few seconds these panels alternate with a second set of five stills.
The music from the soundtrack provides the audio.
Options presented are :
Scene Selection : Twenty-four thumbnails on four screens. Each thumbnail has live action. No audio.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||SONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|