Peterloo (2018)

Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Roy Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Neil Bell, Philip Jackson, Pearce Quigley, Neil Bell  .UK. 2h 34m

Political riots just aren’t what they used to be, it seems like only yesterday innocent people were being shot with rubber bullets and tear gassed for arguing against the poll tax. WIth the Tories finally getting their wish to ban protesting it feels all that more poignant to remember our rights to speak out against matters we feel are unjust and wrong.

It feels like an ice age ago when Mike Leigh forced us to indulge in his night time landscape of philosophical bestial beauty in the 1993 masterpiece Naked, and yet he manages to reinvent himself time and time again, more recently being at the forefront of the artist history movement with the 2014 Turner, bringing to life one of Britain’s most cherished artists, but sticking to this long pantaloons comes a rarely talked about event in British history, told in the only language mike speaks, direct beauty. But waiting exactly 200 years after the event to release this epic portrayal of the bloody massacre, is it the event or the resulting Guardian paper that Leigh finds so fascinating?

Maxine Peake, all plumped up and mothers heads the cast as an everyday woman with ideas but not wanting to rock the she advises her family to keep a low profile when the suggestion of prosting is announced. 

Within days a political movement has been started and speakers are ushered in to rile up the allies, as the political landscape of Britain begins to change and workers begin to realise they do have rights, but a fussy aristocracy are hell bent on keeping the commoners in their place, after all a workforce should be happy with whatever they are given.

Once the authorities begin to sniff out who’s behind the potential uprising everything has gone underground, so the government does what any powerhouse would do, wait until the opposition show themselves and strike like a viper. Anyone protesting and thus in the way are simple cannon fodder.

“I know what is good for my people better than they know themselves!”
– prince regent

Seeing Leigh taking this giant leaps through History began as something charming and intriguing, however for the run time, the movie seems more balances with why and how the protest was organised than the event and fall out, however it’s accurate and put together with dedication just not for the purposes of entertainment, more of a historical reenactment that paces through the motions but without much spirit.

Rating: 5/10


Related: Naked (1993), Mr Turner (2014)
Lists: British History Vol 1
Spotlight: Maxine Peake, Mike Leigh

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