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  • Drama
  • 2018
  • Mike Leigh
  • 147 mins
  • 12A


Premiere. Thousands of demonstrators gather in Manchester in 1819 to protest for greater workers' rights and parliamentary representation. The peaceful protest is met with violent retribution when mounted soldiers are sent in to break up the crowd, leading to one of the most infamous acts of Government suppression in British history. Mike Leigh's fact-based period drama, starring Maxine Peake and Rory Kinnear.



Rating: 4 out of 5.

Director Mike Leigh stays in the past (after Mr Turner) with this epic reconstruction of a dark chapter in British history. On Monday 16 August 1819, thousands of ordinary men, women and children gathered at St Peter's Field in Manchester to peacefully listen to rousing speeches about winning the right to vote and putting an end to rising poverty. They weren't expecting to be attacked, trampled and killed by their own troops - the conquerors of Napoleon - in carnage that has gone down in infamy as "Peterloo". This sobering but enthralling blast from the past, superbly shot by the director's regular cameraman Dick Pope, sees Leigh seamlessly move between the lives of disparate characters in the years after Waterloo: a family of weavers headed by Maxine Peake's matriarch: the Westminster government and gluttonous Prince Regent (an unrecognisable Tim McInnerny), fearful of losing his head to the forces of revolution; venomous Manchester magistrates determined to quash any radicalism; and moderate reformists and supporters from the local press, who invite tub-thumping speaker "Orator" Hunt (a terrific Rory Kinnear) to address the masses on that fateful day. Though the film is of considerable length, it's never plodding - Leigh leavens the mood with pointed humour and subtle mockery, whether it's in the pomposity and idiosyncrasies of the ruling classes, Vincent Franklin's apoplectic reverend magistrate or Hunt's smug, southern snobbishness. The climactic massacre is unheralded and low key, yet once the mayhem unfolds, it's easy to be reminded of recent crowd crises like Orgreave, the Poll Tax riots and Hillsborough. No doubt, Ken Loach would have been more strident with the material. To his credit, Leigh manages to take quirky slice-of-life drama to impressively epic heights and express a quieter indignation. But it's indignation, nonetheless.

How to watch




Henry HuntRory Kinnear
NellieMaxine Peake
JoshuaPearce Quigley
JosephDavid Moorst
Lord Liverpool, the Prime MinisterRobert Wilfort
Lord Sidmouth, the Home SecretaryKarl Johnson (2)
Mr HobhouseSam Troughton
Mr GroutRoger Sloman
Prince RegentTim McInnerny
General Sir John ByngAlastair Mackenzie (2)
Samuel BamfordNeil Bell
John KnightPhilip Jackson
Joseph JohnsonTom Gill (2)
John BagguleyNico Mirallegro
John TyasLeo Bill
Deputy Chief Constable NashVictor McGuire
Magistrate Rev HayJeff Rawle
Magistrate Rev EthlesonVincent Franklin
Magistrate Rev MalloryDavid Bamber
Female reformerChristine Bottomley
Female reformerJulie Hesmondhalgh
Mrs MossLizzy McInnerny
Richard WainrightPaul Bown


DirectorMike Leigh


Theatrical distributor
bfi /Entertainment One
Released on
Violence, some swearing
Available on
DVD and Blu-ray
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