Written and directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Mike Leigh who is also a well-known playwright and director of theater, Peterloo is a very British historical drama with a great amount of oratory that tells the true story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre of peaceful protesters against the British government in Manchester, England. The film’s events take place after the famous Battle of Waterloo in which British forces defeated the French led by Napoleon Bonaparte, and one young soldier who returns home to poverty-stricken Manchester where there is talk of rebellion against the aristocratic British government. Much of the first part of the movie follows the young soldier’s family as well as other political activists demanding more voting rights and reform in the Parliament. Eventually, a group of Manchester leaders of the protest movement convince the notorious activist Henry Hunt, played by the terrific Rory Kinnear, to give a fiery reformist speech in front of tens of thousands in Manchester in hopes of forcing the British government to take action. Closely watched by local political and police officials hostile to the protesters, up to 60,000 people gather at St. Peter’s Fields to hear Henry Hunt’s speech. However, the local British forces and militia stir up chaos in which the thousands of protesters are scrambling for cover, and, ultimately, as many as fifteen bystanders may have been killed by the British in the melee. Overall, I found the film to be an historically interesting film that, at times, felt rather dry with the abundance of highfalutin dialogue but did an excellent job of depicting the horrific Peterloo Massacre on its 200th anniversary.

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