CREDIT: Simon Mein/Amazon Studios

Starring: Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Pearce Quigley

Director: Mike Leigh

Running Time: 154 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Chaotic Deadly Scene Shot Fairly Tastefully

Release Date: April 5, 2019 (Limited)

I have two big takeaways from Peterloo:

  1. The working class has been fighting for its rights for hundreds of years and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
  2. The suffix “-loo” was the “-gate” of its time.

Neither of those conclusions really speak to whether or not Peterloo, the latest from English director Mike Leigh, is a good movie, so on that score, let me say the following. Rory Kinnear is a riveting speaker. The running time is about a two and a half hours, and it certainly covers a lot of territory, but it also somehow manages to end abruptly. And it manages to treat its title massacre tastefully without shying around from the bloody awfulness.

For those, like myself, who are not experts of nineteenth century British history, you may not be familiar with the Peterloo massacre and you may thus be surprised to discover just how deadly it was. In August 2019, a crowd of about 60,000-80,000 had gathered in Manchester to protest parliamentary reform. To handle the crowd, a cavalry was sent in, which led to eighteen deaths and hundreds of injuries. The film is mostly build up leading to the main event, and thus most scenes consist of people hashing out what direction this country’s society should be headed in, and how much they are willing to risk to make it happen. The working classes sound frustrated, but also perfectly reasonable. Really, they only want what everyone deserves. Meanwhile, the lords grumble, stoking unfounded fears of spreading “tyrannism.” Quite frankly, they sound awfully silly with their pomp and arrogance. I certainly agree with the points that Leigh is presenting. I hope most people do. Ultimately though, as a cinematic experience, Peterloo is adequate, but it could have been more rousing.

Peterloo is Recommended If You Like: The rights of the working class, 19th Century English society in all its variety

Grade: 3 out of 5 Rousing Speeches