Peterloo movie poster
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Peterloo
Peterloo movie poster

Peterloo Movie Review

Capsule Review: If you can manage sitting through two hours of British accents talking politics, Peterloo finally delivers a searing and upsetting portrayal of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre where scores of civilians were killed at the hands of British forces.

From director Mike Leigh (who made the equally talky but nonetheless enthralling Mr. Turner, among other more critically praised films), Peterloo is a movie that can more easily be respected than enjoyed. Leigh is clearly fascinated by the machinations of true democracy—peasants debating in shops, orators delivering speeches to motivate the masses, crowds peacefully protesting for change—and spends plenty of time (literally, two hours) depicting just that. The scenes are well-acted and well-staged, but few could argue that two hours of small politics equals enthralling, let alone enjoyable, fare.

I only managed to push through Peterloo (available on Amazon Prime) over the course of many days, and even then I questioned whether I should continue. But Leigh finally does deliver in the end, his depiction of the massacre a sad and tragic spectacle. The movie isn’t for everyone—probably not most—but those fascinated by historical events may find something to enjoy here. Peterloo deserves respect. Just maybe not two and a half hours of your time.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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