Peterloo – Film Review

The Peterloo Massacre was recorded as one of the most horrific and inhumane slaughters in British history. In 1819 sixty thousand gathered at St Peter’s Field, Manchester to demand reform of the current parliamentary representation due to the poor economic conditions which took place at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Manchester Patriotic Union organized a well- known radical orator Henry Hunt to speak at St Peter’s Field to address the political imbalance. Wanting to silence Hunt and the crowd, the local magistrates summoned the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and those that stood with him. Sabers drawn by the Yeomanry things turned for the worst, eighteen people were killed including a young infant while four to seven hundred people were left injured. The slaughter was horrifying and soon gained the name “The Peterloo Massacre” a name that shared comparison to the Battle of Waterloo.

Peterloo centers around several characters, Joshua (Pearce Quigley), Joseph (David Moorst), Robert (Tom Meredith) John Knight (Philip Jackson), Samuel Bamford (Neil Bell) and John Bagguley (Nico Mirallegro) as they pursue to end an economic depression, to better the lives of those living within Northern England. Although there isn’t really a main focal character, ideally the film bounces around from different points of views cutting from the local magistrates back to certain characters and rally groups, which is risky as this can sometimes disrupt the story flow due to film trying to establish every one of its characters.

Surprisingly the film had a good anchor as it painted clearly what was wrong with the political powers and why the overall objective to change the unbalanced economic system was important. I was left confused at times trying to piece together who was who, as well as distinguish their importance to the film. There were quite a lot of characters that were included but did little for the overall story, which I thought minimizing the use of characters would have been less confusing.

The feel of the film felt real, believable, natural and consistent mainly through its character portrayal and acting. The powerful acting talents flowed so well that you felt the pain of the people through their display, as well as built up rage towards the local magistrates. This I feel makes a good movie; if you’re feeling the emotions of the characters and feeling their needs for a resolution.

Although I felt the acting was brilliantly executed, there was a lack of character development (almost none) and I didn’t really see much change in the characters. I guess this may have been purposely done to already have the characters established and so that the story could just get to the point of the film.

I had wished for a better resolution for the film however unfortunately history had written it to end that way. There were also unanswered questions left open that would have been nice to have answered, it’s just annoying to introduce characters to the story and then have them disappear with no explanation as to where they went or what happened to them.

Peterloo is a strong centered movie with powerful acting and a strong political display. Its ability to have its audience engaged by its portrayal of the economic struggle makes this film so interesting. Apart from having some story flaws, Peterloo is a historic movie that should definitely be explored.

Peterloo is in cinemas now.

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